he commissioners appointed to oversee Birmingham City Council after it declared itself in financial distress last month have been announced.
The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) wrote to the city council’s chief executive, Deborah Cadman, on Thursday to inform her that leading local government figure Max Caller has been confirmed as the lead commissioner.
It comes after the largest local authority in Europe revealed that it could not balance its books and issued a section 114 notice on September 5, effectively declaring bankruptcy, prompting DLUHC Secretary of State Michael Gove to announce that he was minded to intervene and send in commissioners.
The former chief executive at London boroughs Hackney and Barnet will be joined by John Coughlan, the current commissioner for special educational needs and disability services and former chief executive of Hampshire County Council, Chris Tambini, the former director of corporate resources at Leicestershire County Council, Pam Parkes, executive director for people and transformation at Essex County Council, Jackie Belton, chief executive of the London Borough of Bexley, and Myron Hrycyk, the Cabinet Office’s crown representative for Oracle, IBM and Microsoft.
The Secretary of State has also appointed two political advisers to support the authority – Lord John Hutton, a defence secretary and business secretary under the previous Labour government, and John Biggs, former executive mayor of the London borough of Tower Hamlets.
In an email to Ms Cadman, the DLUHC said of the appointments: “These individuals are best placed to take up these roles directly, due to their individual knowledge and experience in local authority leadership, decision-making, governance, finance, HR, IT and commercial development.
“The Secretary of State recognises the expertise of his appointees and is confident that they will be key to resolving Birmingham City Council’s issues as quickly and effectively as possible.”
In response to the appointments, leader of the council John Cotton and Ms Cadman vowed to work “constructively and collaboratively” with the commissioners to tackle Birmingham’s challenges.
They said in a statement: “Max Caller is a vastly experienced local government expert with a strong track record in transforming and improving councils and we welcome his appointment as the lead commissioner.
“We believe his knowledge of the city and his previous experience as a non-executive adviser to the authority will be an invaluable asset.
“Our sole focus now is on working with the commissioners in a collaborative way to meet the immediate challenges and set the council on the journey to long-term sustained improvement.
“That work is already under way and the expert input from the commissioners will be invaluable as we work to transform the council and get the budget back on track.”
The section 114 means any new council spending in the city, with the exception of protecting vulnerable people and statutory services, must stop immediately.
It came as the council admitted it had an estimated £760 million equal pay liability.
The authority said it does not have sufficient resources to cover the potential liability and has also identified a budget shortfall for the current financial year of £87 million, which is projected to rise to £165 million in 2024/25.
Birmingham Local Conservatives have also welcomed the support of the commissioners.
Councillor Robert Alden, leader of the opposition and Birmingham Local Conservatives, said: “Labour now have one last chance to show commissioners that they understand the gravity of the situation they have created and that they are both willing and capable of acting accordingly.
“That must start with immediately fixing the mess they have created since 2017 and ensure that all staff are paid fairly.
“Until that situation is resolved, the bill will keep going up and residents will continue to suffer.”
Councillor Ewan Mackey, the deputy leader of Birmingham Local Conservatives, said: “We hope that the appointment of two very significant figures from the Labour Party, Baron Hutton and John Biggs, alongside the team of commissioners, will enable constructive communication and action from the Labour leadership here in the city.”