Birmingham City Council’s financial difficulties have finally hit the rarefied heights of the corporate management team, explains Public Affairs correspondent Paul Dale.
Ten of Birmingham’s best known and highest paid civic officials are fighting to save their jobs in the latest round of cost-cutting consultation.
The directors and assistant directors, most of whom earn more than £120,000 a year, have been told by chief executive Stephen Hughes that they are at risk of being made redundant if proposals to remove a whole tranche of civic officialdom are approved.
No decisions have been made yet, but a major reshuffle of the management team could see 11 senior jobs axed, to be replaced by four new super-posts.
The shake-up, which would save £1.4 million a year in wages and on-costs, follows an announcement that the council is looking to get rid of up to 2,000 jobs across the board during 2010/11 in response to expected government-imposed public spending cuts.
Most of the threatened job losses announced so far are expected to be further down the employee chain.
But for the first time in many years, a reshuffle of the top decks is also under way.
Mr Hughes issued a consultation document – “Reorganisation of Corporate Centre” – setting out proposals for a slimmed-down executive workforce.
Jobs earmarked to disappear include posts currently held by the corporate directors of resources, Paul Dransfield, of governance, Mirza Ahmad, of public affairs and communications, Debra Davis, and of policy and delivery, Jason Lowther.
The city’s Corporate Director of Business Change, Glyn Evans, the man behind a £900 million business transformation efficiency programme, is also vulnerable. His job could disappear along with the Scrutiny Director post, held by veteran council employee John Cade.
A raft of jobs just under the highest level will also go if Mr Hughes’s plans are approved.
Posts held by Assistant Director of Finance, Alison Jarrett, Assistant Director of Revenues and Benefits, Chris Gibbs, Assistant Director of Shared Services, Jean Robb and Assistant Director of Customer Services, Paul Higgins are at risk of being removed.
The axed jobs are likely to be replaced by four new positions, which any of the officials threatened by redundancy could apply for.
The new positions are: Strategic Director of Resources, Director of Democracy and Scrutiny, Director of Transactional Services and Director of Policy.
Mr Hughes, understandably, is unwilling to discuss in any detail the ramifications of what is likely to be a desperate stampede by some of the biggest names in English local government to hang on to their jobs.
A spokesman for the chief executive said: “Proposals to re-structure the senior management of the Chief Executive’s Directorate are currently being consulted upon as part of the ongoing effort to make the council’s services as efficient and effective as possible.
“All directorates, from top to bottom, are continually looking at ways to provide the best possible value for money for citizens, given the challenging public finance context that local government faces. No tier of staffing is immune from possible change as the council strives to provide first-class services.
“No final decision has been made on the future make-up of the Chief Executive’s Directorate, and potentially affected staff will be kept informed as and when there are any developments to report.”
Even with a slimmed-down corporate management team, there will still be plenty of bosses at the city council.
Corporate Finance Director Jon Warlow is set to escape unscathed from the reshuffle, along with five senior officials in his team.
Property Services Assistant Director Peter Jones, and six senior managers, are similarly unaffected.
No mention, either, of the six assistant directors in the Development Directorate, or the four assistant directors in Housing.
* Who’s who in the council jobs reshuffle
* Paul Dransfield:
Corporate Director of Resources
The man in charge of the council’s purse strings. Hasn’t been in post for very long, but is thought to have impressed council leader Mike Whitby with his meticulous approach to the job. However, recent criticism of the city’s error-strewn accounts from the District Auditor shook Mr Dransfield, who until then had adopted a low profile. Even so, thought to be a shoo-in to become Strategic Director of Resources.
* Mirza Ahmad:
Corporate Director of Governance
One of the country’s senior Asian lawyers and public servants, runs the council’s legal services with a rod of iron and has won a string of national awards. Difficult to imagine that Mirza will not become the new Director of Democracy and Scrutiny, if he wants the job.
* Debra Davis:
Corporate Director of Public Affairs and Communications
Extremely low-key figure who has been in post for less than three years. Best known for writing a report listing her own department’s many failings. Has been rumoured to be leaving for months and, since nothing remotely matching her job description appears in the four new super-posts proposed, this could be her exit ticket.
* Jason Lowther
Acting Corporate Director of Policy and Delivery
Seen as a fast-rising star, and ambitious. Lowther will be hoping for something from this reshuffle, presumably angling to become Director of Policy.
* Glyn Evans
Corporate Director of Business Change
In charge of the business transformation programme, upon which the council’s hopes of saving £900 million rest. Talks a good game, but the pressures of delivering savings on such a scale are beginning to show. Having put the building blocks in place in Birmingham, Mr Evans may feel the need to take his skills to another public body.
* John Cade
Director of Scrutiny
Veteran council manager who has used his undoubted intellect and personal skills to keep disputes between scrutiny and the executive at a minimum. But has already decided not to go for the new Director of Democracy and Scrutiny job and to opt for early retirement instead.