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Mark Rogers to leave Birmingham city council

Mark Rogers to leave Birmingham city council

🕔18.Feb 2017

Mark Rogers, chief executive of Birmingham city council since early in 2014, will leave the local authority this week, Chamberlain Files understands.

Continuing issues with the council’s budget and financial management, with black holes still evident and a less than full throated vote of confidence from the LGA panel, is believed to be the last straw.

Birmingham Labour sources and others familiar with the performance of the local authority have indicated John Clancy, the council leader, as well as the Government finally lost confidence in Mark Rogers in recent weeks.

Mr Rogers, widely liked in many Birmingham circles and seen as highly affable and engaging, has paid the ultimate price for not being at the Council House enough to firmly grip a variety of significant challenges following the hugely damning Kerslake Report.

His public comments, through authored pieces and interviews in publications such as the Guardian, have not been seen to be helpful. Mr Rogers’ credibility has been damaged by adopting a high public profile, including on Twitter, whilst not resolving fundamental issues at the Council House.

His outspoken comments on the Single Transformation Plans (STPs) process, alongside the financial issues, turned the previously supportive council leader to decisive action.

Mr Rogers was informed by the council leader on Thursday and the Cabinet was updated on Friday, according to multiple Chamberlain Files sources.

Mr Rogers has, in many ways, been a very unlucky Chief Executive. He had to handle the Trojan Horse crisis within days of arriving from Solihull Council. By his own admission, the situation was not managed in a way that would be characterised as best practice.

Trojan Horse led, indirectly, to the Kerslake Review into Birmingham’s governance. It is expected that the council will finally admit that it has not reacted quickly enough to issues addressed in the Kerslake Report, most notably putting in place deliverable and sustainable budgets.

Birmingham city council’s problems certainly did not start with Mark Rogers and any chief executive would have found the task of managing drastic cuts in budgets and staff to be difficult in the extreme. But there are many who feel that Mr Rogers has not tackled the challenges robustly enough and whose public comments and persona have not inspired confidence that a tough manager is on the job.

The next letter from the Birmingham Independent Improvement Panel, appointed as part of implementing the Kerslake Review, has delayed its next letter to the Communities Secretary pending developments at the Council House, according to sources familiar with the process.

The removal of Mr Rogers clears the way for a more positive letter, although it may be a few more months – after the election of a West Midlands Mayor – before the Panel will feel able to advise the Communities Secretary that it does not need to continue in its existing form.

The city council, which is likely to see Angela Probert appointed as interim CEO or temporary Head of Paid Service, now faces the task of finding a new Chief Executive to run a council which many senior officers in local government think is an impossible job.

The council has made a series of questionable appointments to the CEO role and the top strata of the council. Cllr Clancy’s legacy as leader, even though only just over a year into the role, will be shaped to a large extent by the appointment he now makes.

Speculation among local government insiders is already pointing to Jo Miller, chief executive of Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council, as a possible appointment. Highly respected, the best of the next generation, but seen as “hard as nails” might be just the kind of person needed in Birmingham. A female CEO at the Council House may also be welcomed in many quarters.

Meanwhile, Mr Rogers is unlikely to be the only senior officer to take leave of his duties at Birmingham city council. Jon Warlow, Strategic Director – Finance & Legal, has not been seen at his desk recently. The financial report presented to Cabinet last week delegated authority to the Deputy Leader and the “Acting Chief Financial Officer” to make final amendments, rather than to the Strategic Director.

Chamberlain Files contacted the Council for comment. A spokesperson said that they were not aware Mr Rogers was leaving the Council, but in any case “the Council would not comment on speculation, particularly where individual employees were involved.”

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