Council confirms Roney departure with tribute from leader

Roney and Craig and team with local government award

Cllr Bev Craig, Leader of Manchester City Council, has confirmed the city is to seek a new chief executive after Joanne Roney agreed to take up the new managing director role at crisis hit Birmingham City Council, where she first started her career.

Craig said she understood the “emotional pull” that Birmingham has on Roney and said: “Being chief executive of Manchester City Council is one of the best, arguably the best, jobs in local government. You get to be at the heart of our globally-recognised, growing city shaping how services are delivered and how our people and businesses can share in inclusive success.

“But I understand the emotional pull the Birmingham job has for Joanne and we wish her every success in her new role as she moves back home. We thank her for her service and her contribution to the city over the last seven years.

“As she would be the first to say, everything we do here is a team effort and she will leave behind a strong and talented management team with a clear vision of where the city is going, its strengths to be built upon and celebrated and the long-term challenges which we are addressing. It is, as ever, an exciting time in Manchester.”

The process of recruiting a new chief executive for the £210,000 a year role will start imminently.

Joanne Roney will serve a notice period as the recruitment process for a new Manchester City Council chief executive gets underway and join Birmingham City Council later in the year.

Roney said: “I’ve loved my time in Manchester. It’s a wonderful city and I’m proud of what – together with colleagues, partners and the city’s political leadership – we’ve been able to achieve here. Whoever follows me as chief executive is inheriting an incredible role alongside a talented and dedicated leadership team.

“I might be an adopted Mancunian, and proud of it, but I’m a native Brummie and this was the only role which could have tempted me away. I began my career as an apprentice at Birmingham City Council at the age of 16 so the prospect of concluding it there as managing director, and helping the place where I grew up and my family still live rise to its current challenges, was a compelling one.”

As reported on yesterday, Roney has been widely perceived to have done a good job at Manchester since she succeeded Sir Howard Bernstein in 2017. An impossibly tough act to follow, she not only was she Manchester City Council’s first ever female chief executive in 2017, but a complete outsider from the tight ‘Manchester family’ that ran the city and its interlocking institutions.

During her tenure she has been faced with a wide range of challenges including leading the Council’s response in the aftermath of the Manchester Arena bombing, as well as the development of the Glade of Light memorial to those who lost their lives, and co-ordinating the city’s response to the Covid-19 Pandemic.

During her time as chief executive, Children’s Services – which had been classed as inadequate by Ofsted back in 2014 – were transformed to the extent that by 2022 they were rated ‘Good.’ Adult care services were also improved, with an increased focus on early help and prevention.

She is also steered the council through onerous budget rounds, losing £50m from services, and driving the Council through the fundamental changes to Health and Social Care.  She is lead Chief Executive for skills across Greater Manchester.

Before moving to Manchester, she was previously Chief Executive of Wakefield Metropolitan Borough Council, where she held the top post from 2008.

Having started her career in Birmingham as a 16-year-old apprentice in housing services, she has continued to champion opportunities for young people, skills and reducing inequalities including launching the Our Year programme for young people in Manchester throughout 2022.

Other tributes recognised the difficult task she had in succeeding Howard Bernstein, with one saying she still had to contend with “deep state Howard” long after his departure.

In the business community comments included this from insurer Greg Broadhurst, also a charity trustee: “She’s done an incredible job, both of you have. Taking over the Leese / Bernstein duo was a big ask. 

And in a reference to Caroline Simpson’s upcoming move from Stockport to the GMCA, Broadhurst said: “You can’t have our Caroline from here in Stockport, Andy’s poached her for the GMCA!”

Eve Holt, Strategic Director at GM Moving said: “Much love and respect to @joanneroney. Our loss is Birmingham’s gain.”

Henri Murison, chief executive of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership said: “Having worked with Joanne for a number of years, including from her time at Wakefield and now Manchester, she has been a significant supporter of the work to bring the North together as greater than the sum of its parts,” he said.

“I will always be grateful to her personally and professionally, and look forward to continue working with her at Birmingham – a city which sees the critical importance of greater partnership, transport, and economic links with both sides of the Pennines.”