LBWF old boys and girls in the news: Daniel Fenwick and Shifa Mustafa

It is always thought-provoking to learn about how LBWF old boys and girls are getting on, and so here’s an update on two who currently are in the news, Daniel Fenwick and Shifa Mustafa.

As those with longer memories will recall, Mr. Fenwick was Director of Governance at LBWF between 2003 and 2015, before moving to take up a similar post in Newham.

However, unfortunately, and as this blog has previously reported, since leaving us, Mr. Fenwick has found himself involved in a swamp of intrigue, centred around long-standing allegations of corrupt relationships, involving councillors, officers, and what are habitually described as ‘local businessmen’.

Now, it appears, things have taken a further turn for the worse. 

For last week, Private Eye published a long report under the headline ‘Brown Envelopes’, in which Mr. Fenwick makes a late but startling appearance:

As for Ms. Mustafa, she was something of a rising star at LBWF, reaching the dizzy heights of Deputy Chief Executive Environment and Regeneration, and indeed was tipped by some to succeed Chief Executive Martin Esom.

But for reasons that have never been publicly explained, in 2014, Ms. Mustafa suddenly found her post deleted, and so she moved on.

Most recently, Ms. Mustafa has worked for London Borough of Croydon, which, as has been widely reported, is now teetering on the verge of bankruptcy.

The esteemed news website, Inside Croydon, has closely scrutinised her career, in south London and before, producing this somewhat jaundiced summary:

‘Mustafa arrived as a senior London borough executive, but one who had not held down a permanent job since she left Waltham Forest in August 2014…

Mustafa’s responsibilities as executive director of place have included such triumphs as overseeing the Fairfield Halls refurbishment (at least £13million overbudget and 15 months late), the CPO and redevelopment of the town centre by Westfield (now not happening) and the bungled and costly Brick by Brick housing scheme. None of which will fill anyone with confidence…

Mustafa will also have some work to do to win over the council’s increasingly demoralised staff.

With 15 per cent cuts being applied and more than 400 jobs likely to go, workers at…[the Town Hall] will be watching carefully to see, when people begin to return to the office, whether Mustafa resumes her pre-covid practice of taking every Friday off, apparently to spend time in her garden for the benefit of her mental health.

According to the most recent figures available from the evermore secretive council, four-day-a-week Mustafa is on a salary and pension package of £176,103 – or more than eight times greater than what’s paid to the average Croydon Council employee, who are usually expected to work at least five days a week.

When Mustafa arrived in Croydon, the council propaganda department lauded her as having overseen “a number” (what was it? One? Two?) of regeneration projects, “…including the redevelopment of Walthamstow town centre and the delivery of the borough’s first cinema. She also led an award-winning facelift improvement scheme for the borough’s high street”. If only Mustafa had managed to do something similar during her time in Croydon so far…

…Within a year [of her appointment], Ofsted had delivered its damning report on failing Croydon’s children’s services, while a few months later the alarm bells began ringing over the multi-million-pound cost overruns at the Fairfield Halls and New Addington Leisure Centre (both falling under Mustafa’s responsibility), and by February 2019, even Westfield had given up the pretence that they would ever be carrying out their redevelopment of the town centre.

Before joining Croydon, Mustafa had spent a brief time working in a temporary capacity at Kingston, following her hurried departure from Waltham Forest, were in the phrase favoured by Private Eye, “Inspector Knacker” had been called in to investigate a financial scandal:

It was a tale of negligent local authority accounting and missing paperwork supposedly charting the use of millions of pounds of government grants. At least £180,000 was lost without trace. “Years later, it remains unclear what, if anything, was achieved with the money or where much of it ended up,” Lord Gnome wrote five years ago, in a phrase which may chime with Inside Croydon’s loyal reader.

“Late last year,” the Eye reported, “the senior officer with responsibility for the initiative, deputy chief exec Shifa Mustafa, left the council with a pay-off of £140,000.”

Of course, none of that was mentioned in Croydon Council’s press release to announce her appointment here.

Nor was there any mention of how Mustafa’s previous employers had been convicted in court for breaking health and safety laws after mismanagement of asbestos at Waltham Forest Town Hall. In Croydon, the principal reason offered for the delays and cost overruns at the Fairfield Halls was the apparent surprise discovery (in a 1950s-designed and 1960s-built building, no less) of… asbestos.

And who was the senior official at Waltham Forest responsible for briefing the council cabinet on the handling of the asbestos issues, who only ever did so orally, without written reports? None other than Shifa Mustafa’.

So much for the history. The latest, according to the Local Government Chronicle, is that, alongside three other senior officers, Ms. Mustafa now finds herself suspended following an investigation into ‘management actions’, with a ‘senior local government figure’ reported as advising: ‘it was not a surprise to see so many officers suspended at once at a council in difficulty, although they could not recall a precedent to so many officers being suspended simultaneously. They pointed out that whereas in the past deals could be struck so that officers could be encouraged to leave, the government’s exit cap rules now meant such offers would be less attractive’.

It will be interesting to see, in both cases, what transpires next.

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