Brummie Joanne Roney set to be chief executive of Birmingham City Council

The award winning chief executive of Manchester City Council is heading to Birmingham to take over the top role here, we understand. It will be a homecoming for Blues fan Joanne Roney, who was born and raised in Shard End, later becoming an apprentice in Birmingham City Council's housing department at the tender age of 16.

She has described that first job as life changing. The appointment has yet to be officially confirmed but we understand the city council will do so formally in the next 24 hours, following an employment committee meeting.

For Roney, who was named Municipal Journal Chief Executive of the Year in 2022, the move would amount to the closing of a circle, and bring her back to her roots. Her family still lives in the city.

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She has a very positive reputation in local government circles and has earned the seal of approval from senior politicians. Birmingham Live has twice tipped her for the role - first when former CEO Dawn Baxendale left in 2019, and most recently last month when the role was being advertised.

Her appointment - likely with the title of managing director - is a vital next step towards the council's recovery. She will join a council in turmoil but on the road towards improvement after a financial crisis that has forced more than £300 million of budget cuts, a mass sell-off of council property and land, and a two year council tax hike of 21%.

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She will work alongside external commissioners appointed by the Government as part of an intervention package following the council's de facto bankruptcy last year. It is understood she may have to work out a lengthy notice period that means current acting CEO Graeme Betts continues in his role into the summer.

Roney has previously described her rise from a council estate in Shard End to the top ranks of local government. She completed an MBA in public sector management at the University of Birmingham part time while working her way up the ladder. She was a housing head in Kirklees, West Yorkshire, then went to Sheffield, where she was the city council's director of housing and community care.

Roney became chief executive for Wakefield Metropolitan District Council in 2008, and has been CEO in Manchester since 2017, mostly working alongside veteran Labour leader Sir Richard Leese.

Sir Richard, who stepped down in 2021, headed up a campaign improvement board inquiry into the Birmingham Labour group's political set-up last year and made a withering assessment of the way it was operating. The report he helped produce was partly blamed for the downfall of former leader Ian Ward. Roney was his appointment in Manchester, and it's thought she comes highly recommended.

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A meeting of the council's new employment committee tomorrow afternoon (Thursday June 6) is due to confirm the appointment. Roney will become the tenth to sit in the hot seat in ten years.

In a recent BirminghamLive interview, lead commissioner Max Caller was asked why anyone 'in their right mind' would want to take up the role, given the rapid turnaround. He said 'the right person' would want to come here, because it is a great job. “There will be someone who wants to come here because this is the biggest challenge in local government and the rewards in terms of how the people of Birmingham will benefit will be worth it. It is the pinnacle of what we (in local government) do,” he said.

He said then very few people would be capable of taking the post, which comes with a salary of up to £295,000. Previously local government star Deborah Cadman held the role but suddenly resigned earlier this year after a tumultuous period in which a massive equal pay bill emerged and a new finances IT network went live, with disastrous consequences. She had been at the helm less than three years and her departure meant the council had gone through nine chief executives in rapid order.

Who is Joanne Roney?

Roney, 62, has a CBE and OBE for her services to local government. She was born and raised on a council estate in Shard End, and has close family still living in the area. She has said previously: “I owe my career to Birmingham City Council because without my time there my life would have taken a very different turn. It’s not common for someone from my background to become a chief executive, it is unusual. I come back to Birmingham a lot to see my family and also to support the Blues as I’m a big football fan.”

In an interview on joining Manchester City Council in 2017, she was described as speaking about ‘listening’ on planning and of having an ‘open and honest dialogue’ on affordable housing and ‘genuine dialogue’ on transport. ‘Compromise’ and ‘collaboration’ come up repeatedly, wrote Jennifer Williams for Manchester Evening News.

Roney said of her appointment in Manchester back in 2017,when she was the first woman to take the role, that she realised she was more ambitious than she had credited: "When the opportunity came up to be chief executive, I had a long chat with myself. ‘Here you are Joanne, you’ve been in this about 400 years, here’s an opportunity to be a senior woman in the most exciting city at a time when local government is entering a completely new phase.’

If she thought Manchester in 2017 was exciting, she ain't seen nothing yet. Welcome to Birmingham!