‘Precautionary measure given the historic issues uncovered’

Borrowed time: Mayor Jason Perry and council CEO Katherine Kerswell

CROYDON IN CRISIS: At 12.15pm this afternoon, the council’s internal communications department issued the following statement to all staff, under the title, “Message from Executive Mayor Jason Perry and Chief Executive, Katherine Kerswell”.

This is that statement in full:

Dear all,

Today the government will be publishing the latest report from Croydon’s Improvement and Assurance Panel. The report highlights significant progress in our improvement journey and recognises the work staff across the organisation are taking to transform the council.

The Minister for Local Government, Lee Rowley, and his officials have written to us setting out that he is ‘grateful for all of the work that you and other colleagues in Croydon have done in recent months to begin the long journey back from unprecedented challenges that the council has faced. I would like to formally acknowledge the good progress made by the council, under your leadership and with close support from the Panel, to address the difficult challenges it faces.’

This is welcome recognition from the government that despite the deep historic challenges facing Croydon, our political and officer team are making good progress and are willing to take the difficult decisions necessary to return the council to a sustainable footing.

Conversations with the government to negotiate Croydon’s package of financial support are continuing and, in light of the additional £224million of capitalisation directions we have agreed, and our request for an unprecedented debt write-off, the government intends to formalise our current improvement arrangements. This is as a precautionary measure given the additional historic issues which have been uncovered.

These powers are designed to give the government extra assurance that we are using their financial support to best effect, as we continue to rebuild the council in the wake of historic financial problems.

The Minister’s written statement to the House of Commons today is clear – this decision isn’t a negative reflection of where we are now. The government recognises the progress that has been made and the positive steps we have all taken to lay the foundations for recovery and ensure legacy issues are addressed.

But, the unprecedented scale of the financial support that we are requesting, and the depth of Croydon’s historic problems, needs this extra assurance back to the government.

The Improvement and Assurance Panel, chaired by Tony McArdle, has been working with us since early 2021. Its members have given us support and advice on how we have been delivering our renewal plans and have been regularly reporting progress back to the Secretary of State.

The need for more rigour is the result of the additional amount of money that we have had to ask the government to allow us to borrow to sort out the historic legacy problems in our finances.

Initially we had to ask permission to borrow £150m back in 2021. This year we have had to ask for a write off of £540m of debt and permission to borrow a further £224m.

This additional borrowing, plus the work all of you are doing to transform our services and deliver the £36m of savings next year, has allowed us to balance our 2023/24 budget. We still have more to do to become a sustainable council but that is not possible without further support from the government due to the amount of debt we have.

Quite rightly, with that amount of money involved, the government want to make sure that we have learnt from the historic mistakes made here, that the improvements we are making will last, and that we keep the momentum we have to turn things around for good in Croydon.

Talks with DLUHC and panel members are ongoing to agree how we can best work together and support one another moving forward, including resolving the council’s debt.

Underpinning everything is the need to return to sustainable local government in Croydon – which we know is something that we all want and are working towards.

We will make sure updates are shared with you all.

Thank you

Executive Mayor Jason Perry
Chief Executive, Katherine Kerswell

Croydon’s Tory Mayor, Jason Perry, had put things more succinctly earlier this month when interviewed on BBC Radio London.

He said: “Things are going to get worse.”


Read more: Two years too late, Tory Government intervenes over council

About insidecroydon

News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
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2 Responses to ‘Precautionary measure given the historic issues uncovered’

  1. SallyM says:

    There are a lot of people making money out of Croydon Taxpayers. There should be a forensic investigation into where the money has gone. Fairfield, Brick-by-Brick, developers, suppliers, planners, councillors.

    “the government intends to formalise our current improvement arrangements” – that’s Perry/Kerswell speak for ‘take control’ right? Do we then need an ‘Executive Mayor’ and a ‘Chief Executive’? One or the other. It will save time deciding whose names goes first at the bottom of their communications.

  2. Reg says:

    We have an executive Mayor – why do we have the incompetent Katherine Kerswell?

    there’s a duplication of roles and a worrying lack of performance from Kerswell. She is a serial gravy train senior council manager and is taking Croydon for a ride.

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