The chief executive of Lewisham LBC ”has agreed to step aside”, just seven months after he was appointed to the post.
It is believed Ian Thomas and mayor Damien Egan (Lab), who won the borough’s mayoral election in May, found it difficult to work with one another.
A spokesperson for the council said: “Ian Thomas was appointed by Lewisham Council before the last local elections under the previous administration.
“Since May 2018, the new administration in Lewisham has reviewed its ways of working. With no negative reflection on Ian, it has been decided to take a new direction and following a constructive dialogue with Ian, he has agreed to step aside from his role at the end of this year.”
Mr Thomas was appointed chief executive in March by former mayor Sir Steve Bullock (Lab), having previously served as strategic director for children and young people at Rotherham MBC from January 2015, spearheading the metropolitan council’s efforts to overcome its child sexual exploitation scandal.
Mr Thomas succeeded Barry Quirk who served as Lewisham chief executive for 24 years before moving to Kensington & Chelsea RBC to oversee its recovery from the Grenfell Tower fire.
The president of the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives & Senior Managers (Solace) responded to the announcement, saying that the council appeared to have “done a modernisation U-turn without reason”.
Jo Miller, also chief executive of Doncaster MBC, said: “At the Solace summit last week I spoke to the need to take positive action to increase black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) representation at the top table.
“Here we have an example of one of the very few black chief executives falling victim to whim.
“Ian did an outstanding job in children’s services in Rotherham and presented himself in selection as a CEO who would set a course to modernise Lewisham alongside an incoming mayor.
“Lewisham appear to have done a modernisation U-turn without reason and it is a real concern that increasingly often, talented professionals are cast aside carelessly.
“I have expressed my concerns and those of Solace to the Local Government Association about the need more generally to improve selection and onboarding of senior staff and I’m pleased that we will be working together on this to produce a best practice toolkit to help councils get this right.”
Stephen Baker, chief executive of Suffolk Coastal and Waveney DCs tweeted: ”This stuff happens, & its a measure of the man @Ian_C_Thomas that he has the guts & integrity to move on. He’ll be back in another role v soon though!”