Trebles all-round! Self-professed ‘friend of Suella Braverman’ has given generous pay rises to the unelected bureaucrats overseeing Croydon’s cash-strapped council
Michael Gove and his Conservative Government have just added another £50,000 per year on to the costs of running Croydon’s failed council. Doubles all round!
The Department for Levelling Up yesterday handed a £100 per day pay rise to each of the five members of the improvement and assurance panel that has been overseeing the work of council officials since early in 2021.
With each of the five panel members working on Croydon matters for an estimated two days a week, give or take, that means that close to £10,000 per week is now being spent paying the improvement panel for their advice and expertise in turning Croydon’s failed council around.
That, of course, is a conservative (small “c”) estimate. The panel members could decide to spend every hour of every working day going over the books and reports in Fisher’s Folly. In which case, they could rack up total payments in a year to a maximum of around £1.2million.
And, as usual, Croydon’s Council Tax-payers will be expected to pick up the bill.
What do you mean, you haven’t noticed any real improvements since Tony McArdle and his merry band first rocked up at Fisher’s Folly nearly three years ago?
What do you mean, you’re not at all assured that having five unelected, Government-appointed bureaucrats effectively in charge of your council until 2025 is helping sort out the mess at the council?
After March 2022, McArdle’s panel failed to have any of what were supposed to be quarterly reports published by DLUHC for the rest of that year.
Gove’s department decided to sit on the important reports in the run-up to the local elections in May 2022. Not at all suspicious conduct.
In the end, they did not release any of them, to advise how bad things had become, until after the newly elected Tory Mayor, piss-poor Jason Perry, had issued a Section 114 bankruptcy notice of his own in November last year, where he predicted that he would be unable to balance the books for 2023-2024.
Croydon residents were hit by a Tory double-whammy earlier this year. First, part-time Perry asked for and was permitted to hike Council Tax by 15% in April – more than any other council in the country.
Then, in July, Conservative Government minister Michael Gove gave statutory powers to his improvement panel, ordering Croydon’s chief executive to take instructions from McArdle & Co, rather than just considering their advice. Gove, and the panel, reckoned that the council was still not passing “best value” tests. Three S114 notices in two years might have given them a clue.
Basically, it means that Croydon’s Mayor is now Powerless Perry for as long as the improvement panel is in town, which they reckon could be at least 2025. That makes Perry’s £84,000 per year salary one easy cost saving that could be made immediately.
Since the summer, McArdle and other panel members have been regulars at council meetings, and now get to speak at Town Hall meetings. They often have more opportunity to speak in the Town Hall Chamber than elected, opposition councillors from the Green, Liberal Democrat and Labour parties.
And yesterday, McArdle was given a pay rise, up £100 to £1,000 per day.
His panel members – Pamela Leonce (housing), Brian Roberts (finance), Jon Wilson (adult social care) and Phil Brookes (commercial and asset disposal) – also get a £100 per day pay rise, and so will receive £900 per day for their time spent in Croydon. Cushty.
And better still, Gove has ordered that the pay rise should be back-dated five months! Trebles all-round!
Leonce and Roberts joined the panel in the summer. Roberts had previously worked with McArdle in breaking up Northamptonshire County Council, the first local authority in England to go bankrupt this century (three years ago this week, Croydon became the second).
The generous (with other people’s money) pay rise came in a letter from Max Soule, who wallows in the title of “deputy director, local government stewardship” in the Marsham Street offices of Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, where the Secretary of State is Suella Braverman’s mate, Michael Gove.
“Dear Tony”, Soule wrote to McArdle.
Under the heading: LONDON BOROUGH OF CROYDON: INTERVENTION
Soule wrote: “I am writing to let you know that the Secretary of State has decided to increase your daily fee from £900 to £1,000, and to increase the daily fees for the other independent members of the London Borough of Croydon Improvement and Assurance Panel from £800 to £900.
“This reflects the changed status of the Panel, which was moved to a statutory footing as per the Directions issued on 20 July 2023. As per those Directions, the Council are directed to meet these fees, and the Secretary of State expects the London Borough of Croydon to backdate this uplift to the start of the statutory intervention on 20 July 2023.
“I would like to take this opportunity to thank you and the Panel for your continued hard work to support this intervention, and for your commitment to improving the performance of the London Borough of Croydon.”
Read more: Tory Mayor Perry admits: ‘Essentially, we’re insolvent’. Again
Read more: Perry claims ‘progress’ and gets set to hike Council Tax again
Read more: Town Hall staff braced for £31m more cuts and job losses
Read more: Cover-ups and denial over Brick by Brick failure
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