Government launches intervention at Birmingham City Council

Five-year intervention launched at Birmingham City Council to fix serious problems

  • Five-year intervention launched at Birmingham City Council to fix serious problems, Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove confirms
  • Commissioners appointed to help return council to sustainable financial footing along with new political advisors
  • Decision taken after consideration of stakeholder views

Commissioners have been appointed at Birmingham City Council to tackle its serious financial and governance problems after a five-year intervention was confirmed by Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove today (October 5).

The team of six commissioners will be led by Max Caller CBE, an experienced local government professional and former commissioner, and will be able to provide advice and challenge the council whilst making decisions directly, if necessary. They will have powers relating to governance, finance and recruitment and bring expertise in local government improvement, finance, HR, equal pay, housing, ICT and commercial projects.

The commissioners will be joined by Lord John Hutton, a former Defence Secretary and Business Secretary, and former Mayor of Tower Hamlets, John Biggs as political advisers to the council. The advisers will not have the legal power of commissioners but will support the political leadership of the council as they take the difficult decisions that will be required.

Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove:

"Residents have been let down by Birmingham City Council’s failure to get a grip of the significant issues it faces, from its equal pay liability to the implementation of its IT system.

"We are always committed to protecting the interests of taxpayers and we will take whatever action necessary to ensure this happens in Birmingham.

"That’s why today I have taken the decision to intervene and appoint a team of commissioners to help return the council to a sustainable footing moving forward."

A package of intervention proposals were outlined in the Oral Statement made to Parliament by the Levelling Up Secretary last month (September 19), which stated the Government was ‘minded to’ intervene to protect residents and taxpayers in the city. The plans were subject to a representation period of five working days with views from stakeholders considered before the final decision was made today.

It comes after Birmingham City Council issued a ‘section 114 notice’ on September 5 – an admission its backdated equal pay liability, estimated by the council as being up to £760 million, along with an in-year budget deficit that includes the costs of implementing an IT system are larger than the council’s available resources

The local authority subsequently issued a ‘section 5 notice’ and a further ‘section 114 notice’ on September 21 because it failed to secure a decision relating to its equal pay liability.

A local inquiry will be launched in due course. It is anticipated it could look at the fundamental questions’ about how the issues facing Birmingham have developed and would examine the council’s ongoing management of issues identified in Lord Bob Kerslake’s review of the authority in 2014, and the non-statutory intervention afterwards.

The independent review, commissioned after the ‘Trojan Horse’ investigation into a number of Birmingham schools, found successive administrations had failed to tackle deep-rooted problems – and highlighted a culture of sweeping problems under the carpet, rather than tackling them head-on.

Further information:

  • 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.

Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities
The Rt Hon Michael Gove MP