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Council CEO: Baxendale for Birmingham

Council CEO: Baxendale for Birmingham

🕔07.Dec 2017

Dawn Baxendale, currently chief executive of Southampton City Council, will be appointed as chief executive of Birmingham city council next week, reports Kevin Johnson.

The appointment is somewhat of a surprise given that current Doncaster Council chief executive, Jo Miller, highly regarded in local government circles and seen as a strong choice for Birmingham, was passed over in favour of Ms Baxendale.

Ms Baxendale had previously been director of economy and environment at Southampton.

A special meeting of the full city council has been called for Monday 11 December to approve the appointment of a Chief Executive and Head of Paid Service.

Chamberlain Files understands that some late changes were made to the appointment panel for the post which meant that council leader, Ian Ward, was able to secure his preferred appointment. Cllr Brigid Jones, the new deputy leader, is understood to have preferred Ms Miller.

Jo Miller, who is a prominent local government boss and active in the Society of Local Government Chief Executives (SOLACE), had made no secret of her interest in the job. Chamberlain Files has long understood that former leader John Clancy was not minded to appoint Ms Miller. His successor, it would seem, felt the same.

Commenting on the appointment, Ms Miller said:

I set out my stall consistent with who I am, what I’ve achieved and what I understand needs to be done to bring about sustainable improvement in modern public services.

Birmingham has decided I wasn’t for them and I wish the city and it’s incoming chief executive every succcess for the future.


Following the exclusive revelation of the appointment by Chamberlain Files early this morning, the council confirmed our story in media statements.

Cllr Ian Ward said:

I am delighted that we have been able to make an offer to Dawn. We had some very strong candidates apply and it was heartening to see so many excellent people interested in the job, but Dawn was the one who we all felt had the qualities the city council needs.

The offer will be formalised at full council on Monday and then we will look forward to welcoming her officially in 2018.

Chamberlain Files understands that other candidates included Katherine Kerswell, the former chief executive of Solihull Council; Kersten England from Bradford Council; Graham Farrant from the Land Registry; Tony Mcardle from Lincolnshire Council and Diana Terris from Barnsley Council.

The post of Birmingham city council chief executive is the biggest job in local government, but not one for the faint hearted.

Stella Manzie, who is acting CEO, indicated some weeks ago that she would not be applying for the permanent role.

Mark Rogers, the last person to hold the job in full, left the council under the leadership of Cllr John Clancy as the council continued to struggle with responding to the Kerslake Review. His departure was also exclusively revealed by Chamberlain Files.

Mark Rogers to leave Birmingham city council

The post was advertised with a salary of up to “up to £213k p.a.” The recruitment materials stated:

Our story has been well documented; our challenges and opportunities are equally significant. We’re the largest council in the country, a council in a unique position.

You’re an experienced CEO, confident and successful, who’s already delivered significant outcomes in the public sector. You will need to be able to operate in the national and international spotlight and be willing to work at the cultural and organisational changes we need to improve our services and impact.

You’ll be strong on corporate governance and comfortable dealing with complex budgets, financial challenge, improvement goals and new delivery arrangements. You’ll approach every opportunity with an inventive mix of strategic and operational expertise.

Potential candidates were referred to a website with the domain: “earntheirrespect.”

Cllr Ian Ward told trade journal the MJ, which ran an advertorial for the role:

We have to be realistic and we cannot shy away from the challenges, especially the need to balance our budget and our ongoing work with the Birmingham Independent Improvement Panel to reform the way the council operates.

We must continue the recent improvements in children’s social care services and we need to work hard on aspiration, employment and skills in the city.

The leader added:

We need someone who can both drive improvement in day-to-day services and give vibrant, motivating leadership to strategy and partnership work in the city. These are all vital to fulfilling the potential of our young and growing population. The new chief executive must work with the Improvement Panel and be robust enough to drive forward our own change.

All-out elections in 2018, which will see the number of councillors cut from 120 to 101, will be followed by a period of political stability and potential opportunity to make great strides in ensuring the council meets the challenges of its future.

Birmingham City Council is looking for an outstanding chief executive to capture the exciting development opportunities and create inclusive growth. The successful candidate must have the confidence, political nous and persistence to build the city’s image and harness the talent of a young and vibrant population.

Dawn Baxendale faces an enormous challenge as Birmingham city council emerges from the waste management dispute; significant budget headaches and the return of the Birmingham Independent Improvement Panel as well as the wider travails of local government dealing with reduced government funding and increasing service demand.

The new chief executive will also need to deal with a completely new council which emerges from all out elections next May.

Ian Ward’s future as leader will depend, to a large degree, on Ms Baxendale’s ability to steer a new course and truly make Birmingham a “council of the future.”

Chamberlain Files wishes her well.

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