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A week is a long time in (Council) politics

A week is a long time in (Council) politics

🕔13.Apr 2017

They say (or at least Harold Wilson did) that a week is a long time in politics. A penny for the thoughts, then, of Birmingham city council’s interim chief executive Stella Manzie who has now been in post for just over a week.

So far, the response from council insiders has been positive on the experienced Ms Manzie. She is apparently spending the first two weeks in the job in a series of meetings and briefings before reaching beyond the Council House.

Heavily backed by the Communities Department, the interim chief executive will be making a considered assessment the council’s significant challenges. Further changes to the top team are expected and it is understood she is looking again at the ‘Future Operating Model’ plan.

Piali Das Gupta, an Assistant Chief Executive brought in by and close to Mark Rogers, has announced that she is moving to Solace. She will fill a new role as Head of Policy for the local authority chief executive and senior managers’ organisation.

Her former boss, writing in the Local Government Chronicle, has this week questioned the need for a spectrum of membership bodies supporting local government. He wrote:

It is not just councils that have to reinvent themselves.

It is the same for the Local Government Association, the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives & Senior Managers, the associations of directors of adult and children’s services, etc. For some of these institutions, it is more than just a minor adjustment or two that’s required to keep them fresh and meaningful. This is one of those existential moments in which they need to work out their future relevance….

Mr Rogers continued:

I no longer want broad spectrum memberships of multiple organisations, the benefits of which can be uncertain, inconsistent or overlapping. Solace, where my membership heart and soul will always lie, clocked this rapidly changing context some time ago and, accordingly, continuously reviews and revises the scope of its membership, its offers and its governance.

Also in the news this week was the now regular Town Hall Rich List from the Taxpayers Alliance. The Birmingham Mail headline screamed: “Boss at cash-strapped council earned £414k in ONE YEAR – topping West Midlands Town Hall Rich List.” Former council director Sharon Lea apparently picked up a “whopping” £414k in “ONE YEAR” making her the sixth highest paid council official in the country during 2015-16.

It’s hardly news, however, as the figures are reported in the council’s accounts and the vast majority of the total was for pension contributions. Nevertheless, it’s not a good look for a council with serious financial challenges, which has just given its chief executive early retirement and which is about to undergo another major staffing re-structure.

Meanwhile, Doncaster council boss Jo Miller remains serious about pursing the permanent CEO position, according to Files sources, even though there is talk of making an appointment beyond the usual local government circles.

But the issue focusing the minds of many politicians remains the impact of changes to the size of the council and boundary adjustments for May 2018. There will be 19 fewer council seats, so the selection process for the single and two-member wards lies in wait after the Metro Mayor election.

Given the political climate, and the boundary changes, Labour figures are expecting a much small majority on the other side of all-out elections next May, bringing Councillor Clancy’s leadership into much sharper focus.

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