Local government moves in a mysterious way, its wonders to perform, but there will be people in Birmingham today wondering about the wisdom of the city council handing its chief officers contracts of employment requiring only three months’ notice of intention to leave.
Good news for regeneration director Clive Dutton, who will be able to start a new job in London by the end of September. But bad news for Birmingham, which will probably have to do without a regeneration director for at least six months and possibly longer. Bad news, also, for the council chief executive, who on top of his many other responsibilities, now finds himself having to take personal responsibility for managing Mr Dutton’s department and driving through many important construction projects until a permanent replacement can be found.
This would not happen in the private sector. If Birmingham City Council was a plc with a £3 billion total spend, it would be inconceivable that board-level directors would be able to quit and walk away within three months.
The council will no doubt argue that there are pros and cons to long notice periods. They can act as a disincentive to some applicants who want the flexibility of being able to move quickly to another position, and they can also make it costly for organisations to get rid of under-performing executives.
But in the case of Clive Dutton, the council’s failure to impose, say, a six month notice period has backfired.
It is unlikely that the search for the “top-class individual” the council says it is seeking can be concluded very quickly, leaving a question mark over the future of hugely important regeneration projects.