Birmingham’s improvement panel has been accused of “forcing the council’s hand” over the departure of the city’s chief executive Mark Rogers.
Mr Rogers’ departure was announced today by leader John Clancy (Lab), though he remains in office without a leaving date set.
The improvement panel was established in December 2014 by the Department for Communities & Local Government in the wake of Lord Kerslake’s highly critical report on Birmingham’s operation, culture and corporate governance.
One source close to the council told LGC that the panel threatened to recommend to the government that the council be placed in special measures without Mr Rogers’ departure, a course that would likely oblige both him and the political leadership to resign.
A prominent Birmingham politician said: “I think the improvement panel have demanded Rogers’ head from [Cllr] Clancy as they don’t think he is providing leadership and last year’s budget was not delivered.
“The panel has not given Birmingham a clean bill of health and would not while the chief executive remained, so that forced [Cllr] Clancy’s hand.”
A DCLG spokesman said: “All personnel issues are a matter for Birmingham City Council. The council is continuing its improvement work, and the independent Improvement Panel is due to report to the secretary of state shortly.” The city council declined to comment on what it termed ‘speculation’.
In November the panel concluded “flawed planning” and “unrealistic assumptions” had put the council on course for a £49m overspend. An independent financial peer review, published in December, found planned savings “were very ambitious and in hindsight were unlikely to be achieved”.
However, a more positive follow-up report by the peer review team in January found there was “much greater clarity and consistency” in financial plans. The planned overspend had by then reduced to £30m.
There was dismay among staff at events, with source close to the council telling LGC: “There is a whole organisation saying ‘What’s the bloody point?’.”
However, Mr Rogers’ high public profile appears to have made him unpopular with some.
Mr Rogers, who is also chair of the Birmingham and Solihull sustainability and transformation plan, made waves late last year when he criticised the NHS and its senior leadership for failing to give enough consideration to the pressures on social care when developing the plan. At the weekend local blog the Chamberlain Files reported that Mr Rogers’ high public profile and frequent use of Twitter had frustrated senior councillors.
Opposition leader Robert Alden (Con) said Mr Rogers’ departure was “hardly a surprise given the amount of time he appeared to spend externally trying to build a national profile, compared to being in the city trying to fix our many problems”.
Mr Rogers was appointed in December 2013 by then leader Sir Albert Bore (Lab). He previously held the top post at Solihull MBC and has been president of the Society of Local Authority Chief Executive & Senior Managers.
Mr Rogers said in his resignation statement: “Birmingham City Council has been on a challenging journey of improvement and reform over the past three years and I am hugely proud of the team I have worked with to deliver much needed changes in culture, practice and performance.”
Cllr Clancy said: “I’d like to thank Mark for his hard work and commitment over the past three years during what has been the most difficult and challenging of times for Birmingham City Council.”