A former UK local government leader who was allegedly ousted from his role after presiding over England's “worst performing council” and a “failing” children’s service has moved to defend his track record after becoming the States latest senior hire.
Ex-Birmingham City Council Chief Executive Mark Rogers was yesterday appointed the Interim Director General of the Department for Children, Young People, Education and Skills – a new States department centred around child welfare and implementing the £23million Care Inquiry’s recommendations.
With a combination of teaching, children’s services and local government experience under his belt, the new States Chief Executive Charlie Parker said he was “delighted” about the new recruit, adding that Mr Rogers was “uniquely placed to support our drive to make a step change in how we care for, support and develop all children in our island.”
Since then, questions have been raised over his track record after it emerged that Mr Rogers had been asked to leave his Birmingham role after apparently failing to deliver promised savings and fears that vulnerable children were not receiving enough support under his leadership. Mr Rogers, however, said that the issues were already deeply entrenched by the time he started working there.
At the time of Mr Rogers’ departure in February 2017, Birmingham was described as England’s “worst-performing council.”
Pictured: Mr Rogers' career portfolio.
According to national media reports, the key issue related to Mr Rogers’ failure to deliver on promised savings on social services, which led to a “£49million black hole.”
But that was underscored by fears over the running of Birmingham’s child protection services, which were officially rated as “inadequate” for the eighth year running while Mr Rogers was in post in 2016. Control of the department was eventually transferred from the Council to a voluntary trust. He argues he had set those services on the road to improvement.
At one point, the ongoing difficulties even prompted an investigation by Channel 4’s Dispatches, revealing what was described as a “troubling picture of chaos, low staff morale, confused decision-making and overstretched colleagues struggling to cope.” An Ofsted report published in June that year – some weeks after the programme aired – supported those findings, also concluding that hundreds of children were not in education and had fallen off the council’s radar and that some were not being kept sufficiently safe from child sexual exploitation.
Under a year later, The Times reported that Mr Rogers was ousted by council leader John Clancy - just days ahead of an urgent budget meeting leading to thousands of redundancies and cuts totalling around £71million – and was handed a six-figure pay-off.
In his first day in his Jersey role, Mr Rogers addressed those concerns, commenting: “Birmingham City Council has an annual revenue budget of £3 billion. Like all English councils, every year since 2008 it has been required to make significant reductions in expenditure. To minimise the impact of such cuts it has been customary for many councils to use earmarked reserves to balance pressures in key service areas (such as social services) where the reductions in spending cannot be achieved in a single financial year. This is the approach that Birmingham took when I was its Chief Executive.
“Birmingham’s children’s services had been in special measures for ten years before I started working there in 2014. By 2016 the improvements I made had taken half of those children’s services out of special measures. At the same time, I oversaw the design and implementation of an entirely new Children’s Trust, which went live in April 2017, and will lead to the removal of all services from special measures.”
Mr Rogers was previously the president of SOLACE – a representative body for Chief Executives and senior public sector managers – between 2013 and 2016. Charlie Parker appeared as a guest speaker at seminars held by the body at least twice during that period.
A States spokesperson confirmed, however, that the pair were only familiar on a professional level. “As former chief executives of two of the largest UK local authorities, with long careers in public service, Mr Parker and Mr Rogers both have extensive professional networks, and were naturally acquainted with each other. They have not worked together before,” they said.
Mr Rogers will remain in his role until a permanent Director General is found. States officials said that this could be upwards of half a year, as applicants are “likely to have six-month notice periods.”
Applications for the long-term job closed on Monday – the day before Mr Rogers’ appointment was announced – and interviews are due to take place next week. A States spokesperson said that the chosen candidate will be subject to approval by the Jersey Appointments Commission.
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