Council’s rubbish director is set to take early retirement

KEN LEE, our Town Hall reporter, on an announcement which has been greeted warmly by many of the council’s frontline staff

On the way out: council director Steve Iles

Steve Iles, one of the most controversial senior figures working for Croydon Council, is taking early retirement and leaving Fisher’s Folly at the end of the summer.

Unconfirmed estimates suggest he could walk away from the cash-strapped council with a pension package worth close to £130,000.

Iles’s current job title is “director of sustainable communities”, which carries with it a salary of close to £150,000 per year.

For the best part of a quarter of a century, Iles has been in charge of the state of the borough’s roads, responsible for the introduction of ANPR cameras and LTNs around Croydon, and also overseeing the botched imposition of Binmageddon on the borough through contracts with rubbish contractors Veolia.

Iles, who is thought to be 55, the minimum age for taking early retirement, has worked for Croydon Council his entire career, joining from Riddlesdown High School as a roadworker nearly 35 years ago.

During his time at the council, Iles has been given increasingly absurd job titles, having worked variously as “head of highways and parking services”, “director of streets”, and “director of public realm”, until current council CEO Katherine Kerswell decided to put him in charge of “sustainable communities” (whatever they might be) in October 2021.

High tide: Iles took the credit, and MBE, for the council’s efforts when Kenley and Purley were flooded in 2014

Notoriously, in his time at Croydon, Iles managed to pick up an MBE, following the 2014 floods that hit Kenley and Purley.

The gong came to be bitterly resented by many council staff, who felt that the director who had been caught out with little or no contingency planning for the floods somehow managed to take all the credit for the emergency measures to save residents and their homes that were carried out across the whole council.

Iles describes himself as having more than 30 years of “strategic leadership experience of all aspects of environmental services, highways and traffic management, fleet management, independent travel, parking, horticulture, leisure and active lifestyle”.

He says that he is, “Politically astute with a strong track record in collaborative working and developing proactive partnerships. Skills and experience including commercial, financial, procurement, commissioning as well as extensive stakeholder management with a range of partners.”

That will include things like handing a £22million contract “uplift” to Veolia in the middle of the pandemic, and allowing the rubbish contractors to deliver a lesser service, including fewer road sweepers and removing more than 1,000 street bins from around the borough.

Good deal: Iles negotiated an improved contract for Veolia, who provided a reduced service

The failure to equip the borough’s latest school streets with functioning CCTV cameras is one of the more recent clusterfucks from Iles’ department.

It was Iles who over-estimated the income from parking and LTN fines, predicting £12million per year for three years, which has left a gaping black hole in the cash-strapped council’s budgets this year and next.

In a round-robin internal email sent by Iles, seen by Inside Croydon, addressed to “Dear team”, he said, “I am writing to you with mixed emotions as I am sharing a decision I have made about my career.

“After 34 years of dedicated service at Croydon, I have decided to take early retirement with my last day being 31st August 2023. Whilst I will miss you all and our daily interactions, I am taking some time away from work to enjoy my family and being a grandparent before considering further professional opportunities.

“This was not an easy decision for me to make, as I have really valued my time at Croydon working alongside each and every one of you.

“Throughout my 34-year journey at Croydon, I have held various roles and have had the privilege of developing both as an individual and in my career. From starting as a roadworker in 1989 to reaching the position of Director for Sustainable Communities, I have been very fortunate to work with incredible teams both present and past.

“In true fashion for Croydon, we have had to weather some storms, made some really difficult decisions and celebrated some amazing achievements. Throughout it all, your hard work and dedication has made a real difference and I am proud of what we have accomplished together.

“I would like to take this opportunity to express my heartfelt appreciation to you all for your support and dedication over the years. It has been an honour and a privilege to lead such amazing services and I am truly grateful for the trust and support you have given me.”

He signed off “Steve Iles MBE”.

Katharine Street sources are already speculating that Iles will quickly land a well-rewarded consultancy, possibly with road contractors Conway, with whom he always enjoyed a close relationship especially when overseeing the installation of drop kerbs for residents. He might even end up with Veolia, as they wind down their lucrative arrangement with Croydon after the council decided not to renew their contract.

It has been suggested that Daniel Shepherd, one of Iles’s “team” as the head of independent travel, has been groomed to succeed his old boss.

“But it’s a new council, gone are the old ways of doing things!” one council insider said, entirely insincerely. “I’m sure there will be a very robust and fair recruitment process.”

It is impossible to provide an exact calculation for Iles’ pay-off package. But with his 34-years-plus service and his final salary thought to be close to £150,000 (according to official council figures up to March 2023), it is likely to be very generous, despite the borough’s bankruptcy.

The calculation of the payment will have been based on career average salary, not just his most recent pay packet.

But it seems very likely that Iles will be on an annual pension, index linked to CPI, of more than £47,000. To this, he is likely to receive a pension lump sum of another £47,000 or so.

And then there’s the potential of a redundancy payment of around £36,000.

These figures, apart from the redundancy, are based on nationally agreed figures where the council itself will have no discretion.

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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
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16 Responses to Council’s rubbish director is set to take early retirement

  1. D McNair says:

    Next Piss poor Perry please

  2. Eric Nash says:

    Just a thought. How can someone who is taking early retirement be eligible for a redundancy payment? Has there been an open consultation process on the Council’s proposal to delete the post he holds? If not there can surely be no redundancy and we save a few thousand precious pounds.

  3. David White says:

    This isn’t strictly a redundancy situation, is it, seeing that someone else is apparently already being groomed for the same job?

    • It’s Croydon Council, David…

    • Jack Griffin says:

      There was a time when, IIRC, you could not fill a role made redundant for something like 18 months.

      Now you can, usually to take on someone cheaper, provided the encumbent has been offered the reduced position first.

      If they haven’t, they can then sue for unfair dismissal but Trigger quite possibly thinks he’s well out of it, especially if he’s getting a good (possibly enhanced) package to go.

  4. Ade Nauseum says:

    Croydon had a lot of rubbish directors.

  5. Dave Russell says:

    “director of sustainable communities” – yet another nonsensical title. What does it mean?

  6. Kevin Croucher says:

    The advantage of jobs with meaningless titles like that is it very difficult for anyone to say whether or not you have been a success

  7. Leslie Parry says:

    I am not surprised at this early departure as such Senior Managers within the historical culture of Croydon live in past so called achievements. But fast forward to this Directors current portfolio and it is littered with failures, not providing levels of service the public pay for, waisting council finances, and he is quick to say No to public opinion. This Directors portfolio of responsibility must have a deep dive review and split the job responsibilities his departure gives that opportunity also to examine the problematic culture of staff who do not put people first!

  8. John says:

    What was he actually accountable for? What did he actually do? What added valued did he contribute (not his staff) to the Council in pound note terms? He may have been just another manager without any added value.

  9. Maverick says:

    This has to be music to my ears.

    As former member of his staff I found his statement totally farcical , he treated most with contempt and was not a team player ,he was best known as “Steve Lies”.

    I’m sure he has been offered employment with another company, just hope they know what they are taking on ! I’m sure there will be some happy members of staff who will be celebrating his going.

  10. Lewis White says:

    I have only met Steve Iles once, when he met me and a chair of a local RA to look at the condition of the Brighton Road in Coulsdon. He listened to our concerns, whuch was that the council were planning to take out the attractive grey natural granite sett central median –which had been a part of the TFL/ Croydon town centre paving project, installed some 5 or so years before..

    As a feature, about a metre wide, it divided the wide road into two lanes, so reduced the visual scale of the tarmac road, and thereby made most drivers drive a bit slower.

    It was, sadly, cracking up as a result of variable quality of underlying construction, and the massive pressure of buses over-running the feature.

    He agreed that it would be a shame, visually, but that they had to remove the defective one.. He then came up with the idea of having a new “imprinted bitumen” median that almost looks the same in the general view, but does not crack up.

    So, whilst we were sad that the beautiful real stone was going to go, we were happy with the result. We were happy that he had actually met us, listened and acted.

    I would just mention that Mr Ile’s progress from road worker to Senior officer does show that progression in local authorities is –or maybe , was– possible for someone entering as a manual worker to senior officer, which surely must be a good thing.

    Over the years in local government I have met and worked with many such people who have worked for one council for their whole careers. Many are truly excellent managers and people.

    I suspect that Mr Iles is in fact one of the last of the line of manual worker to Director.

    At some time in the years of the 90’s and noughties, a new breed of “manager” came in who knew absolutely nothing about the technical subjects they were responsible for.

    We are now reaping the miserable harvest of such a de-skilled local government.
    More than sad.

  11. Eddie says:

    How lovely! The director with his already decent salary, choosing to step down, looks to be getting a very generous redundancy (how?) and early retirement package. That must be all the hard work stopping flytipping on our streets…

    Shame tho about the 26 officers in homeless department who aren’t even being offered voluntary redundancy. Nice to see the council treating everyone equal.

  12. Sue Pearson says:

    I’ve had dealings with Steve Iles many times, over the years. He listens, he responds and he takes action – he does his job.

    The person who doesn’t listen, communicate or make good decisions is Katherine Kerswell – she will be here in a year’s time, with her lawyers, awaiting her retirement ‘pay-out’ having done fuck-all for Croydon. Sack her now. This woman is a disgrace.

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