Declared bankrupt three times in two years… £200million lent to a housing company that never repaid a penny of the loans or interest… Arts centre refurb that cost £67million amid suspicions of major fraud… Serious on-going questions about the integrity of the council’s planning department… Golden handshake pay-off to senior council staffer that was approved at a meeting that may have been “unlawful”…
If you think you might be capable of spotting a wrong ‘un better than any of the borough’s 70 elected councillors have managed over the past few years, then maybe you’re just the person to join the council’s audit and governance committee.
But hurry, there’s just seven days left to apply for the position, which has – as you might expect from our dysfunctional council – been barely publicised by its propaganda department.
The notice of the vacancy is hidden away in one of the darker, little-seen corners of the council’s website. It’s almost deliberate, as if someone at the council would prefer the public never to see the notice. Even respected senior councillors approached by Inside Croydon were entirely unaware of the existence of this, apparently important, recruitment process.
Nine months into the new council administration under part-time Mayor Jason Perry, and the council is only now just getting round to the appointment of the co-opted member of the committee, alongside the independent chair, Dr Olu Olasode, and six councillors (three Tories, two Labour and the Town Hall’s sole LibDem).
What used to be known as GPAC – the General Purposes and Audit Committee – was reformed in the aftermath of the council’s financial collapse in November 2020, with the outside chair brought in to help clean things up.
According to the council website, “There is currently a vacancy for a co-opted member to join the committee and become part of Croydon’s improvement and strengthening of good governance.” So it’s not as if there’s not plenty of scope to achieve such improvements.
“The London Borough of Croydon is delivering a wide-ranging programme of corporate governance and financial controls improvement. As part of that commitment, in 2022 Croydon Council established an audit and governance committee. Chaired by an independent member, the committee provides an independent and high-level focus on the audit, assurance and reporting arrangements that underpin good governance and financial standards within the council.”
They say, “Ideally the independent member would bring to the committee a wide range of skills and experience – possessing knowledge of financial controls and management, risk, and possibly have an audit background.”
Basically, they are seeking someone better-qualified than most of the elected councillors – and certainly more capable than the likes of Sean Fitzsimons, the former scrutiny chair who somehow still pops up on the audit committee as a substitute when one of his Labour colleagues can’t manage to turn up.
Current and past councillors (anyone who has been a councillor in the last five years) are de-barred, as are council staff (or anyone employed by the council in the past five years) and consultants. You’re not even allowed to be “related to, or are a close friend of, any councillor or senior officer of the council”.
The appointment is for four years and the successful applicant will “ideally live or work in the borough”.
The council says, “An independent member is a member of the general public, aged 18 or over, who works alongside the six councillors and an independent chair on the audit and governance committee. They contribute to the work of the committee by bringing specialist knowledge and skills to the process and providing an element of external challenge and support.
“The ideal candidate will have knowledge of local government finance, experience of financial control and management, possibly with an audit background. They must also demonstrate an ability to establish good working relationships with councillors and officers. An independent member is objective and politically independent with an ability to analyse information.”
Attendance at about seven evening meetings at the Town Hall per year is expected. “Please note, there’s no annual allowance associated with the position.”
Applicants need to submit a CV and supporting statement “outlining how your skills and experience relate to the role” to firstname.lastname@example.org. But hurry…
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