Wigan Council chief Donna Hall to leave sooner than expected

Donna Hall
Donna Hall

Wigan Council’s high profile chief executive is to step down from her role at least four months sooner than originally announced.

The authority confirmed this week that Donna Hall will leave the local authority on February 25 - not next summer as had been previously stated.

Asked why the departure date had been brought forward, the town hall would only say that it suited both parties and it made the recruitment process for a replacement “easier.”

Ms Hall announced her retirement in October and, when she goes, it ends an almost eight-year association with the council, the first six months as deputy chief executive and the remainder in the top job.

Since June this year she has also been the single accountable officer at Wigan Borough Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG).

A town hall committee tasked with overseeing the recruitment of a new top officer met for the first time on Monday this week.

The appointments panel comprises leader Coun David Molyneux, deputy Coun Keith Cunliffe, four other Labour members and the leader of the Conservative opposition Coun Michael Winstanley.

Meanwhile members of Wigan CCG’s governing body have been informed that Caroline Kurzeja will become accountable officer for the organisation with immediate effect. She was the current deputy chief officer for Wigan and is a former chief officer at South Manchester CCG.

Despite two people now again taking the two roles, the town hall said the appointees “will work closely in partnership continuing the work that has been done so far to integrate local health and social care services for residents.”

On Ms Hall’s departure Coun Molyneux said: “Donna has given incredible service to Wigan over the past eight years and we certainly wouldn’t be the council we are today without Donna serving as chief executive.

“Our vision is still to ensure we have a vibrant health economy that meets the needs and aspirations of local people for excellent health and social care services.

“The chief executive and accountable officer will work closely together to deliver this through the work of a single commissioning function.”

CCG chair Dr Tim Dalton said “We need to make sure that patients get the great services they expect from the local NHS. Working more closely with the council to integrate health and social care is absolutely the best way to deliver this and we are grateful to Donna for her support in really pushing this forward.

“We look forward to continuing that work through a new CCG accountable officer working in partnership with the new chief executive in the council.”

Ms Hall has been credited with bringing bold reforms to the way local government was run in Wigan with the forging of The Deal: what she termed a “psychological contract” between residents and the town hall. It is a project replicated by many other public sector bodies since.

The Deal was created with the then authority leader Lord Smith soon after her promotion. It was the town hall response to government cuts which reduced the budget by £160m far less painfully than many other councils requiring to make smaller savings managed. Meanwhile they invested £10m into community groups and were able to freeze council tax for five years.

The 53-year-old said: “It’s been a true privilege to serve the people of Wigan borough. I would like to thank all our hardworking and dedicated staff without whose support we wouldn’t be in the strong position we are in to support our residents despite eight years of austerity. To be the third most productive yet the third worst cut council in the UK is all down to them.”