CROYDON IN CRISIS: Town Hall reporter KEN LEE on the sky-high wages on offer from the cash-strapped local authority for someone to step in and keep the bins contract ticking over and ANPR cameras working
As Croydon residents prepare to say a not-so-fond farewell to Steve Iles, the council exec who has presided over their rubbish bin service and managed to spend millions on CCTV cameras that don’t work in this country, among other episodes of ineptitude stretching back many years, news reaches Inside Croydon Towers of preparations to pay his replacement up to £15,000 per month.
At the end of this month, after 35 years working for Croydon Council, Iles is taking early retirement from his job as “director of sustainable communities”. The bright and breezy ad from recruitment agency Starfish puts the salary for Iles’ permanent replacement at Croydon’s cash-strapped council at £122,000 to £127,000, but describes the position as “director of streets and environment”.
“We are looking for someone who has the right skills and experience, but most importantly who also shares our values, and our commitment to Croydon and its people, and to making this council the best organisation it can be,” the ad states cheerily.
Given the omnishambles Croydon Council has been for at least a decade, “the best organisation it can be” is not setting the bar very high…
“Our new director of streets and environment will oversee a significant £80million annual expenditure budget and have responsibility for over 450 staff.
“You will lead work across a large portfolio of activity – highways, parking, fleet and transport, parks and open spaces, waste, recycling, street cleansing, environmental regulatory services (including licensing, noise pollution, food safety, events and trading standards).” Fair play: it’s a mammoth job.
Whoever lands it will be expected to lead “the re-procurement of the borough’s waste and recycling contract”, with rubbish contractors Veolia on their way out, despite Iles’ technique to keep them sweet of reducing the demands on the contractor while hiking the amount Croydon paid them.
And we learn from the recruitment advertisement that the council is “proud of our high-performing staff and services across the directorate, which have benefitted [sic] from strong and consistent leadership over many years”, if not reliable use of a spell-check…
It is widely acknowledged, even in public at Town Hall meetings, that Croydon, following its children’s services failed Ofsted inspection in 2017 and the financial collapse in 2020, has struggled to fill many posts.
So while Starfish seek the perfect permanent replacement for Iles, another agency, Remedy Recruitment Group, is advertising with an offer of up to £750 per day for a stop-gap, temporary streets and environment director.
Working five days per week, that day rate works out at £15,000 per month.
Or a cool £180,000 per year, if whoever nabs the position were to stick around that long. And the temp only has to come into Fisher’s Folly offices two days a week “so you must be willing to travel to Croydon”. You knew there’d be a downside, right?
What both advertisements have in common is neither mentions that the potential recruit will be arriving at a council effectively in financial special measures, with all the complications and added pressures that that might mean for the role.
Remedy’s ad style is little more nuts and bolts than the glossy version put out there by Starfish.
They advise that, “This post-holder is the chief engineer for the Highway Authority and leads the statutory responsibility under the Environmental Protection Act 1990, Traffic Management Act 2004 and leads the local flood authority and delivers the duties as required under the Flood and Water Management Act 2010.” Council staff working in Iles’s department often wondered what qualifications he had to fit those responsibilities.
“The post-holder is the accountable officer for the provision of, or advice on decision making in respect of, the legal discharge of all council highways, environmental services and the universal regulatory services, statutory responsibilities in line with relevant Government legislation…”.
And then there’s this zinger of a demand: “The post-holder is required to observe and fulfill the seven principles of public life (also known as the Nolan Principles).” Which would make a change, in respect of several of any new appointee’s colleagues in Croydon.
Given Iles gave notice he was leaving in June, some working at Fisher’s Folly are wondering why it took until last week for the job ads to fill the vacancy to appear. According to Starfish, any permanent replacement won’t face their final interview until October 4 – more than a month after Iles will have cleared his desk for a final time.
If the lucky recruit is any good, then it would be reasonable to expect them to currently be in a job with another employer, which probably carries a three-month notice period. So that means that the permanent replacement probably won’t be in post until the start of 2024. Veolia’s contract expires in 2025, which doesn’t leave much time for finding a replacement contractor and hammering out terms.
As the council’s under-fire CEO, Katherine Kerswell, prepares for another round of job cuts among front-line staff and middle management, the sky-high pay being offered for a temporary replacement for Iles has been another bitter blow to staff morale.
“Maybe one of your readers could take the temp role for couple months until they find someone permanent,” one disaffected council staffer says.
“At 15k a month, it’s a hell of a lot more than what us mere mortals can ever hope to get.”
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