No more ‘rewards for failure’ was the Tory promise before last year’s local elections. Now the council’s executive Mayor has conceded that he cannot act against Newman, Negrini or others accused of bankrupting the borough. By our Town Hall reporter, KEN LEE
Croydon Mayor Jason Perry is appealing for the law to be changed to give him and other councils greater powers to hold Town Hall officials and councillors to account for their actions.
Perry came to power in May 2022 promising to crack down on “rewards for failure” and to bring to account those most responsible for the council’s financial collapse in 2020.
Two independent investigations had highlighted “significant failures by former elected members and chief officers”. But one of those investigations, the Penn Report, was withheld from publication for another year after Perry was elected, by which time all of those identified as having serious questions to answer had left their council jobs or resigned their positions as councillors.
It is not even clear whether Perry’s council has yet acted on one of the fundamental recommendations contained within the Penn Report, that of filing formal complaints over individuals’ conduct to their professional bodies.
In the 18 months since his election, not a single council employee, past or present, nor any councillors have faced any disciplinary action from the council for their part in Croydon’s bankruptcy.
But Perry has ignored a senior barrister’s advice and set the cash-strapped council on potentially futile but costly legal action to recover the £437,000 “golden handshake” paid to former council CEO Jo “Negreedy” Negrini.
Perry has managed, though, to preside over a Section 114 notice – effective admission that he is incapable of balancing the books – and a 15% Council Tax hike.
Today, The Municipal Journal, the in-house magazine for the country’s local authorities, has published an interview with Perry in which he whinges on and on that he is powerless to act against the likes of Negrini or ex-councillors such as Tony Newman and Simon Hall.
The law today is just the same as it was in March and April 2022 when, in seeking people’s votes, Perry offered the electorate, “It cannot be right that someone can come to Croydon, fail horrendously, and then be financially rewarded. This practice ends now.”
It appears that Perry has only belatedly become acquainted with the law, and what powers are available to him as the borough’s executive Mayor or the council as employers.
Piss-poor Perry simpered to the MJ: “All the processes stop as soon as someone resigns and walks away. Councils should have the ability for the process to continue.
“Something’s not working here and that’s what’s got to be fixed. I want the Government to get involved in changing the rules and regulations. It’s got to be reviewed. We’ve got to review the whole process.
“I do feel strongly about accountability and our residents feel strongly about accountability.
“There’s actually very little local authorities can do to hold people to account.
“What’s happened in Croydon isn’t good local government and shouldn’t be allowed to happen to other councils and residents.”
The Municipal Journal reports that in letters to the Local Government Association and Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy, Perry had written: “None of the individuals responsible have been personally held to account for their actions as they all resigned when disciplinary action began. This has left the council with very few options to hold them to account or to pursue personal consequence.
“We are now reliant on other organisations to follow this through.”
The MJ reports that the LGA has pretty much ignored Perry’s missive.
The magazine quotes “a senior sector source” as saying, “There are definitely questions being asked internally at the highest level… and there’s been a very welcome hardening of position around improvement and the organisation’s approach to it, including whether accountability is currently strong enough.”
They added that senior figures in the LGA “are certainly up for a more robust and direct approach to sorting the sector out”.
Though none of those kind of changes are likely to be in force until after the Croydon Mayor – increasingly being known around Katharine Street as “one-term Perry” – has left the role, while all those truly responsible for bankrupting the borough will have escaped any sanction.
- Check out some of our archive of coverage, in which we published extracts from the highly critical Penn Report:
- Penn Report wanted police probe into possible misconduct
- No referrals sent to staff’s professional bodies
- Negrini staged a power-grab over councillors
- Cover-ups and denial over Brick by Brick failure
- Men who led council to bankruptcy say they did nothing wrong
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