Croydon Council has today (23 March) announced it will be taking unprecedented action to hold former senior leaders to account for misconduct, wrongdoing and failures in governance that contributed to the authority’s financial crisis.
In what is thought to be a first for local government, members have given their backing for legal action to recover as much of the settlement payment to former chief executive Jo Negrini as is legally possible. The council will also be referring a series of reports on the council’s failures to the police; and referring individuals to relevant professional institutions who operate a disciplinary code in relation to their membership.
Croydon’s Executive Mayor Jason Perry is also set to write to Michael Gove, the Secretary of State, the Committee on Standards in Public Life, the Chair of the House of Commons Select Committee on Local Government and the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA), asking them to urgently review councils’ powers to hold individuals to account for catastrophic failures in governance.
These are the recommendations agreed by the council’s Appointments and Disciplinary Committee in a series of cross party, unanimous decisions this afternoon. Chaired by Croydon’s Executive Mayor Jason Perry, the committee considered these alongside the findings of the Kroll report – a forensic investigation into the governance concerns and potential wrongdoing in relation to the refurbishment of the Fairfield Halls.
Kroll is the final report into the governance failures at the council, and its findings were considered together with previous investigations including the two Reports in the Public Interest (RIPI) in October 2020 and January 2022, the Rapid Review and the Penn report.
The committee has been awaiting the findings of Kroll to determine what action, if any, will be taken to hold those responsible to account.
“Like so many residents I feel angry about what has happened to my hometown. I feel as strongly as they do that those responsible, ought to be held to account for their part Croydon’s downfall.
“The scale and severity of Croydon’s financial collapse is unprecedented and that is why we are recommending unprecedented steps. The council has issued three Section 114 Notices; it has had to make savings of £90m over the last two years and another £36m this year; it has £1.6bn toxic debt in total and has had to seek permission to borrow £369m from government.
“It is completely unacceptable that individuals who held positions of trust should escape the consequences of their misconduct. Nor should they be rewarded for their failures while our residents, businesses and partners continue to pay the price.
“They must be held to account – that is why I have consistently pushed for the council to take the strongest possible action against those responsible. I will also be making the case to government that councils must have greater powers to hold former officers and members to account for misconduct – without risking further costs to the taxpayer.
“This is something that I will be asking government to look at as a matter of urgency.”
Jason Perry, Executive Mayor of Croydon