Birmingham City Council press and communications boss Debra Davis has quit her £120,000-a-year job after little more than three years in the hot seat.
The former adviser to two Canadian prime ministers, who was appointed director of the city’s Public Affairs and Communications division in January 2007, cleared her desk at the end of last week and said a low-key farewell to staff.
Yesterday Ms Davis, 55, flew to her native Canada where she intends to spend a month working on the campaign to elect George Smitherman, former Ontario Minister of Health and Deputy Premier, as Mayor of Toronto.
Her exit heralds a major shake-up at the public affairs unit, where about 16 jobs are disappearing alongside other efficiencies saving £650,000.
The city’s Strategic Director of Environment and Culture, Sharon Lea, will take over responsibility for communications.
Speculation about Ms Davis’s future has been rife since last summer after she wrote a report slamming the failures of her own department.
The attack claimed the unit lacked strategic planning and had no idea whether what it did worked or was value for money.
Ms Davis said there was no proper planning of communications across the council and no process for measuring the effectiveness of PR.
The council was carrying out communications based on “hunches” about what might work rather than sound research, she added
She was also under the spotlight after submitting expenses claims totalling £15,000 for foreign trips and entertaining.
Ms Davis used a taxpayer-funded credit card to run up a £1,000 bill in a single day at a luxury hotel in Toronto. She paid back £568 of personal expenses spent at the luxury Fairmont hotel in Toronto three months after the trip.
The expenses claims were defended by council bosses as “nothing unusual”, and Ms Davis described them as “extraordinarily modest” and insisted her work offered value for money.
Before leaving for Canada, Ms Davis defended her achievements since 2007.
She said: “I was asked to do a job. The restructure is being implemented. Efficiencies have been achieved and the council’s profile in the news – online and in the broadcast and print media – has greatly improved.”
She will join City TV Birmingham in July as Director of Communications and Public Affairs. The company was co-founded by Alan Grindley, her partner.
Birmingham City Council Chief Executive, Stephen Hughes, said: “Debra is leaving the council to pursue other interests. She has made significant progress in re-organising the communications’ team, and after three years it is the right time for her to move on.”