Croydon’s Improvement and Assurance Panel (IAP) has today set out its plan for leaving Croydon in July 2025 or sooner, confident that the council is on a sustainable pathway of continuous improvement.
In their Exit Strategy published today, the IAP set out the significant improvements Croydon has already made on the road to recovery. They highlight the strong focus on returning to financial stability in Executive Mayor Jason Perry’s Mayor’s Business Plan and the Mayor’s ‘collaborative and transparent’ approach which has improved governance. They also note the clear improvements in management, culture and decision-making, which have been embedded across the organisation by the experienced officer leadership team at Croydon.
Unlike many councils which have issued Section 114 Notices, the government has not instructed commissioners, nor removed any decision-making powers. This demonstrates the government’s confidence in Croydon’s leadership, to make the changes needed to get the council back on track.
Instead, Croydon has worked with an IAP, who were appointed in 2021 following a Rapid Review and Report in the Public Interest, both in 2020. Both independent reports exposed the serious governance failures that would lead to the council’s financial collapse in November that year.
The panel’s role is to make sure the council delivers the necessary improvements, at pace. Since their appointment, both the panel and the government have recognised the strong progress Croydon has made and been clear that Croydon should continue to lead its own recovery.
In recognition of the impact that past financial mismanagement continues to have on Croydon’s budget and the council’s request for exceptional financial support, in July the Secretary of State issued Directions that put the panel on a statutory footing because the council cannot meet its Best Value Duty.
At the same time the government reduced the priority areas for the council to focus on – originally set out in the 2020 Rapid Review – from five to three, following improvements in its approach to risk management and governance of its commercial portfolio. The three remaining priority areas for Croydon to tackle are: finance, housing and transformation.
The council has already made and continues to make significant changes in these areas. An improvement plan is making housing services better across the board; robust action to fix the council’s finances is set out in the council’s medium term financial strategy. And right across the organisation, the council is changing the way it delivers services to meet communities’ needs while offering best possible value now and in the future.
The Exit Strategy has been developed by the panel, in close partnership with the council, and highlights the strong working relationships in place and commitment by both to resolve the council’s challenges.
The five themes of the Exit Strategy draw upon the priorities in the Mayor’s Business Plan and work that is already planned or under way, these themes are: governance, culture and leadership, financial stability, service performance, capacity and capability to improve.
“My top priority since being elected has been to fix the finances and rebuild our council for residents, so that it provides them with the good services and value for money that they absolutely deserve.
“The panel’s Exit Strategy highlights the scale of improvements which already have and are being made and our commitment to continuing this – and at pace. We have had to make tough decisions and this has been a challenging time, but these have been necessary to fix the mistakes of the past and create sustainable services for the future.
“I welcome the government and the panel’s confidence in Croydon, that we can continue to lead our own recovery, and I want to thank panel members past and present for the experience and expertise they have brought to our improvement journey to date. I look forward to continuing to work with them as we maintain our relentless focus on making our council better for the people of Croydon.”
Jason Perry, Executive Mayor of Croydon
Tony McArdle, Chair of Croydon’s Improvement and Assurance Panel, said: “Our Exit Strategy reflects the progress that the council has made and the need to maintain this pace of change in delivering ambitious targets for the next 18 months. If the council does so, it should give confidence to the government that the council is capable of sustaining this path of improvement. It addresses the matter of the extraordinary extent of the council’s debt and makes some inroads into reducing it – but also recognises that only limited progress can be made in this timescale. A plan for the long-term is needed and the council is in discussion with us and with the government over what that might look like.”
The detail of the Improvement and Assurance Panel Exit Strategy is available to view on the council website and will be going to cabinet for agreement on Wednesday 25 October.