NEWS: Birmingham City Council Chief Executive Deborah Cadman to quit quarter million pound role after Oracle and equal pay effectively bankrupt city

Words by Ed King

Birmingham City Council Chief Executive, Deborah Cadman, has officially announced her plans to step down from the role – walking away from the top flight job from 22 March, which reportedly pays around £260,000 a year.

Ms Cadman was appointed as Birmingham Chief Executive in June 2021, having been the tenth person in the role since the turn of the millennium.

Ms Cadman was previously in position as the first permanent Chief Executive of the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) – which came into being in June 2016 – and was appointed an OBE in 2006 for services to local government, following a long career in local governance including holding the position of Chief Executive of Suffolk County Council from 2011 to 2017.

In a statement issued today, Ms Cadman told: “It was always my intention to leave the council once the budget (2024/25) was agreed, and we had a clear route to recovery and improvement. Having secured that approval and having led on the development of the council’s new Improvement and Recovery Plan, I feel that now is the right time to hand over the baton to a new Chief Executive.

“I am of course incredibly disappointed with the council’s current financial position and the challenges that have arisen due to historic Equal Pay issues and the failed implementation of Oracle.

“It has been the honour of my life to be the Chief Executive of the city in which I was born and raised. I wish my colleagues every success in transforming the council into one that this great city deserves.”

The budget Ms Cadman refers to in her statement will see £300m cut from public services, to help get Birmingham City Council financially back on track after a section 114 notice was issued by the city’s Chief Financial Officer, Fiona Greenway, on 5 September 2023.

The potential payout the Council might face in equal pay liabilities, linked to the “bin strikes” from 2017 to 2109, was cited as the reason for the section 114 – with a figure of up to £800m being put into the public domain and endorsed by the exiting Chief Executive, Deborah Cadman.

But many in the corridors of power at Birmingham City Council indicate the real costs to the city may have more to do with the failed implementation of the Oracle ERP system, which was procured to replace the previous SAP system under the advice of city officers serving at the time.

If this proves to be the case, city officials, such as Ms Cadman, will have many questions to answer about the role of the IT and HR support programme in Birmingham’s current financial crisis – which will see residents face on increase of over 20% in Council Tax across the next two years and £500m in public assets being sold to offset a loan from central government.

In response to Deborah Cadman’s resignation earlier today, Birmingham City Council leader and Labour councillor for Glebe Farm and Tile Cross Ward, John Cotton, said: “Deborah has led the council as Chief Executive and Head of Paid Service over the course of the last three years. Her commitment and contribution have been acknowledged by staff, partners and government.

“These have been incredibly difficult times and no one can doubt Deborah’s commitment to the council, the city and the region.”

Leader of the Birmingham Conservatives and councillor for the Erdington Ward, Robert Alden, added: “At a time of unprecedented crisis brought about by the Labour Cabinet, Birmingham now has no Chief Executive, an interim Chief Finance Officer and an interim Monitoring Officer.

“Report after report has talked about the impact of the high turnover rate of senior officers and the resulting loss of corporate memory, but Birmingham Labour have turned this City Council from a place once seen as the pinnacle of a local government career to a national pariah.

“Our great City needs great leadership, but time and again the political leadership has been found badly wanting and residents are paying the cost.”

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