Birmingham City Council financial challenges - time to Reset

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Commissioners announced for Birmingham City Council

Published: Thursday, 5th October 2023

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities has announced the commissioners and political advisors for the city council.

Leading local government figure Max Caller CBE has been confirmed as the Lead Commissioner for Birmingham City Council today, as vital work to address budgetary and organisational challenges at the local authority continues.

The former Chief Executive at London boroughs Hackney and Barnet will be joined by:

  • John Coughlan CBE - current Commissioner for Special Educational Needs and Disability services and former Chief Executive of Hampshire County Council
  • Chris Tambini - former director of corporate resources at Leicestershire County Council.
  • Pam Parkes - Executive Director for People and Transformation at Essex County Council.
  • Jackie Belton - Chief Executive of the London Borough of Bexley.
  •  Myron Hrycyk - the Cabinet Office’s Crown Representative for Oracle, IBM, and Microsoft.

In addition to the Commissioner team, the Secretary of State has appointed two political advisors to support the political leadership of the Authority as they take the difficult decisions that will be required:

  • Lord John Hutton - former Defence Secretary and Business Secretary under the previous Labour Government.
  • John Biggs - former Executive Mayor of the London Borough of Tower Hamlets.

In response to the appointments, Leader of the Council Cllr John Cotton and Chief Executive Deborah Cadman vowed to work constructively and collaboratively with the commissioners to tackle Birmingham's current challenges.

They said: "Max Caller is a vastly experienced local government expert with a strong track record in transforming and improving councils and we welcome his appointment as the lead commissioner. We believe his knowledge of the City and his previous experience as a non-Executive advisor to the authority will be an invaluable asset.

"Our sole focus now is on working with the commissioners in a collaborative way to meet the immediate challenges and set the Council on the journey to long-term sustained improvement.

"That work is already underway and the expert input from the commissioners will be invaluable as we work to transform the council and get the budget back on track."

Following the issuance of its section 114 notice on 5 September, Secretary of State for the Department of Levelling Up, Housing & Communities announced on 19 September that he was minded to intervene and send commissioners to Birmingham City Council.

The leader and chief executive responded to the Secretary of State's 'minded to' letter acknowledging Government analysis of the current challenges, welcoming the proposed intervention, and vowing to work collaboratively with the commissioners.

Note to editors:

  • Max Caller CBE was the Chief Executive of the London Boroughs of Hackney and Barnet, and a Chair of the Local Government Boundary Commission for England. He has experience in multiple interventions, including having previously been Lead Commissioner at Slough, Lead Inspector for the Liverpool and Northamptonshire Best Value Inspections, and a Commissioner at Tower Hamlets. Mr Caller also has experience of working with Birmingham City Council, having been appointed by the Council as one of their Non-Executive Advisors following the non-statutory intervention.
  • John Coughlan CBE has significant expertise in local authority governance, is the former Chief Executive of Hampshire County Council and has extensive experience of local government interventions especially in children’s services. Mr Coughlan has been asked to focus on broad improvement, by supporting cultural change and transformation and driving forward work on the long-term sustainability of the Authority. His role will operate alongside his role as Commissioner for Special Educational Needs and Disability services in Birmingham, for which he reports to the Secretary of State for Education.
  • Chris Tambini is the former Director of Corporate Resources at Leicestershire County Council, where he has held other roles including Section 151 Officer and Head of Strategic Finance. He was the President of the Society of County Treasurers and also worked at city unitary councils. Mr Tambini will focus on the financial position and recovery of the Authority. This will include supporting the Authority’s work to develop and implement a plan for managing the significant equal pay liabilities that led to the Section 114 notices, and overseeing the steps needed to manage other budget pressures for 2023/24 and beyond, and to return the Authority to a position of long-term financial sustainability. It will also include considering what action may be necessary to ensure the Authority has appropriate and effective processes, governance and capacity in relation to its overall financial management.
  • Pam Parkes FCIPD is the current Executive Director for People and Transformation at Essex County Council, is a FCIPD qualified senior practitioner and was part of the Best Value Inspection Team in Thurrock Council. Pam Parkeswill focus on supporting Birmingham to improve its Human Resource and Organisational Design capacity and to find solutions to the Equal Pay issue, including ensuring that appropriate steps are being taken at the required pace to address and manage its equal pay liabilities, in a way that is both sustainable and represents value for money. 
  • Jackie Belton is the Chief Executive of the London Borough of Bexley, the former Executive Director of Operations at the London Borough of Newham where she was responsible for Housing, Planning, Regeneration and Environment, and was Assistant Director of Housing Strategy at the London Borough of Camden. Jackie Belton will focus on supporting the Authority’s housing function.
  • Myron Hrycyk is the Cabinet Office’s Crown Representative for Oracle, IBM and Microsoft. Myron Hrycyk has held prior senior executive roles as Group Chief Information Officer and Chief Procurement Officer at Severn Trent Water and as Chief Information Officer at Yusen Logistics. Myron has worked in a range of sectors including Financial Services, Technology, Utilities and Logistics. Myron will focus on supporting the Authority to rectify its Oracle issues, improve IT and provide commercial insight.
  • Lord John Hutton held roles as Defence Secretary and Business Secretary under the previous Labour Government. In 2010 he led a major review of public sector pension provision, and more recently he was appointed Chair of Make UK. He is currently the Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy to Turkey and a current member of the House of Lords.
  • John Biggs is the former Executive Mayor of Tower Hamlets and held prior roles there as Leader of the Labour Group and Council Leader. He has also served in the London Assembly. He has now retired from elected politics.
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