Croydon BID’s new chair says town centre to reopen on June 1

Croydon BID, the town centre business “improvement” organisation, has appointed a former personnel manager for Gatwick Airport as its latest chair.

Darren Hockaday: new BID chair, with a mastery of bullshit

In his first statement as chair of Croydon BID, Darren Hockaday announced that his organisation and Croydon Council want to reopen the town’s shopping centres from the coronavirus lockdown on June 1.

Although he says that he is a Croydon resident, Hockaday has no apparent, direct links with any businesses based in the town centre BID area.

He has been appointed to the role after a month-long recruitment process which used a firm of corporate headhunters.

Hockaday was registered as the company’s chair last Wednesday, though news of his appointment was withheld until Friday.

Hockaday, who describes himself as a “Chief People Officer”, left his job at Gatwick last September (which now looks like a piece of good timing or very good judgement). The part-time Croydon position is his first appointment since.

According to the announcement, Hockaday brings “a wealth of experience to enhance Croydon BID’s ability to support its 560 members and business community at large as Croydon starts to recover from the national crisis.

“His experience in a number of key appointments, particularly in transport and regeneration, will enable Darren to work effectively with the board of directors and executive in leading Croydon BID and its community through a period of turnaround, recovery, growth and transformation.”

Notice how Croydon BID skirts around the matter of Hockaday’s absence of direct links with any firms actually in the Croydon area – something which was once regarded as a requirement of the person appointed to chair the organisation.

Croydon BID has been without a chair for nearly four months, right through the gathering covid-19 crisis, since – as was first reported by Inside Croydon – Neil Chandler quit his day-job as artistic director of the Fairfield Halls less than six months after the venue re-opened.

The Whitgift Centre-dominated Croydon BID, which in fact represents only about one-third of the businesses registered in its area, has meanwhile struggled along with just its full-time chief exec, Matthew Sims and his staff at a time when many of its members have been battling for survival through the coronavirus lockdown.

Nor has the BID organisation been above criticism in that time, particularly for its lack of substantive help for some businesses as it has been working with Croydon Council in the flawed distribution of government grants.

Nearly two months since the council received more than £60million from the government to hand out to companies right across the borough, nearly £20million remains undistributed, with the council blaming the businesses or claiming to be running some kind of “due diligence” process that no other local authority has seen to be necessary.

Even without covid-19’s impact on businesses, Hockaday joins Croydon BID with the town centre on its knees after nearly a decade of development blight caused by the Whitgift Foundation and Westfield, with major stores, such as Debenhams, closed on lockdown and now never to reopen, and without any prospect of much-needed regeneration happening in the foreseeable.

Perhaps Hockaday’s mastery of bullshit will help?

His own online profile describes himself thus: “An influential, strategic leader and transformational HR Director who delivers innovative and future-focused people strategies to meet investors’ (including private equity) and operational business objectives.”

“Future-focused people strategies”. Yeah!

“Noted for my broad operational contributions to executive teams and Boards, I thrive in ambiguous environments where I need to cut through complexity to bring about change.”

Ambiguous environments where I need to cut through complexity.” Hey! Welcome to Croydon!

“I create the vision that translates business plans into the people strategy and empower my teams to do what they do best as business partners and specialists. A seasoned negotiator, I am collaborative, decisive and practical, introducing technology and other business solutions to deliver savings, pace or improved [return on investment].”

Deserted for two months during lockdown, Hockaday says the town centre will be ready to reopen for business next Monday

Sounds like he will fit right in with the “business partners and specialists” at Fisher’s Folly.

In the announcement of his appointment which took the dynamic team at Croydon BID 48 hours to write and issue, Hockaday had this quote attributed to him, “Working collaboratively, we can strive together to overcome the difficulty ahead and, in its place, create new and exciting opportunities for businesses to thrive once more.”

Though he failed to detail any specific initiative he intends to “create” among those “new and exciting opportunities”.

“Croydon BID and Croydon Council, along with other partners, have been developing plans for the town centre regarding these aspects so that the town centre can operate safely and securely from June 1,” he said.