Council boss Donna acts as troubleshooter

Donna Hall, Wigan Council Chief Executive
Donna Hall, Wigan Council Chief Executive

A struggling council whose children’s services have been taken over by an independent trust had been in dire need of a re-structure, according to a group of troubleshooters which included Wigan’s town hall boss.

Chief executive Donna Hall was part of an advisory panel tasked with producing a report on proposed leadership improvements for Birmingham City Council in 2014.

The local authority’s children’s service had been branded a “national disgrace” by inspectors and has had an “inadequate” Ofsted rating since 2009.

And the Midlands council has announced this week its children’s provision will be taken over by a voluntary trust.

Ms Hall said: “Birmingham City Council serves a population of more than one million and has more than 40,000 members of staff.

“The structure and size of the council was just one of the issues we (the advisory panel) were tasked with assessing back in 2014, as well as the leadership and financial arrangements.

“Parts of Birmingham are among the most deprived in the country and as a result they face a number of challenges.

“The sheer size and scale of the council makes tackling these issues very difficult.

“One of the key observations back in 2014 was the size of teams and the lack of clear structure and direction, which led to staff instability.

“As a result, one of our recommendations was to reorganise and modernise the council, by breaking it up into smaller organisations to improve communication between managers and their teams.”

Birmingham Council had been under intense scrutiny due to its children’s services following the high profile deaths of youngsters two-year-old Keanu Williams and seven-year-old Khyra Ishaq.

A statement from the council said: “This is something we have been discussing for some time with the Department for Education.

“This is the next logical step on our improvement journey.

“In moving to the next phase, Birmingham City Council and the DfE are committed to working together, along with our members, staff, partners and trades unions, on details of how the trust will operate.”

Ms Hall was included on the panel in 2014 to look at the leadership of the authority following an alleged plot by hard-line Islamists to take over some of the Midlands city’s schools was exposed.

A select group of senior local government figures were chosen chaired by Sir Bob Kerslake, Permanent Secretary in Department for Communities and Local Government.

Ms Hall’s selection on the eight-strong panel was welcomed as a coup for Wigan and recognition for the town hall’s organisational successes in recent years.

The chief executive told the Evening Post at the time: “It’s a great honour to be asked to be involved in this important review.

“I think it reflects the huge progress we have made at Wigan Council, which has seen us named one of the top performing local authorities in the country.

“This is an opportunity not only to support Birmingham but also to learn lessons we can apply here in Wigan.”