Residents say Lewisham is on a ‘downward spiral’ as Kingston council snap up chief executive Ian Thomas

Residents feel dejected after a nearby town hall snaps up their respected council boss.

Lewisham’s ex-chief executive Ian Thomas has been hired by Kingston council as resident groups express their dismay at the “downward spiral” of the South-east London borough’s administration.

Mr Thomas was hired by Lewisham council in March with council chiefs praising his work dealing with the child abuse scandal in Rotherham and he was popular with residents.

But less than eight months later the council decided to part ways with their £185,000 a year chief executive.

Cheryl Mcleod, a spokeswoman for the residents group Catford Against Social Cleansing, said: “We are deeply disappointed Ian Thomas stepped down from Lewisham Council with Non Disclosure Agreement (NDA).

“There is no transparency within this council. The borough required something different and Ian was it especially with the high density of African and African Caribbean people whom reside in this borough.

“Lewisham is on a downward spiral. Lewisham’s loss is Kingston’s gain.”

A town hall source told The Mercury that there had been a “personality clash” between Lewisham Mayor Damien Egan and Mr Thomas.

The council released a statement on October 29 saying that the new administration had “reviewed its ways of working” and it had decided to “take a new direction.”  

A petition demanding clarity on the decision, especially what a new direction meant, has gathered more than 2,000 signatures.

The Liberal Democrat run Kingston council announced Ian’s move on Monday December 10.

Council leader cllr Liz Green said: “Ian’s local government knowledge and expertise, particularly in relation to children’s services, makes him the right person for the job.”

Mark Rochell, a spokesman for Lewisham Liberal Democrats, said: “In Ian Thomas’ short time as CEO of Lewisham Council he had been a breath of fresh air bringing a much needed modernising influence to the council.

“The fact that Kingston have snapped up his services so quickly shows the high regard in which he’s held by those involved in local government. It’s a shame that his experience and expertise have been lost to Lewisham due to the Labour council’s wish to move in a ‘new direction’.”

Ian Thomas said: “I am incredibly excited about heading up the staff team at The Royal Borough of Kingston, a vibrant outer London borough, with such a rich heritage.”

A Lewisham Council spokeswoman said: “We wish Ian every success in his new position.”

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