Joanne Roney Question Time 2021

Henri Murison [right] praised Roney for working with a pan-Northern focus. Credit: PNW

Industry reacts to departure of ‘inspirational’ Manchester CEO

Regional leaders and property experts have heaped praise on Joanne Roney after it emerged she will leave Manchester City Council after seven years as chief executive.

Joanne Roney has been selected by Birmingham City Council to succeed Deborah Cadman as head of paid service at the authority, taking on the newly created role of managing director.

Having made her mark in Manchester – leading on the city’s response to the Manchester Arena bomb and Covid-19 pandemic – Roney heads to her hometown with a big job on her hands.

Birmingham City Council is currently operating under the watchful eye of government commissioners having declared itself effectively bankrupt last year.

The decision to leave Manchester presents Roney with the opportunity to play a significant role in repairing the reputation of her hometown authority.

As Manchester embarks on a search for her successor, the property community and local leaders have been reacting to Roney’s departure.

A Northern focus

Henri Murison, chief executive of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, praised Roney’s efforts to work outside of the Manchester bubble.

“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.”

As for Manchester, Murison believes the city remains in safe hands.

“The continued ambition for this city to be both more prosperous and a fairer is one I know will continue under Cllr Bev Craig and her colleagues’ administration for many years to come,” he said.

Barry Crichton, regional managing director for Manchester at Avison Young described Roney’s tenure as “nothing short of transformative”.

“Her visionary leadership and dedication have driven significant improvements in housing, transportation, skills and community engagement, along with leading us through some challenging times, all of which will have a long-term positive impact on our city region.  

He added: “I’m confident that her passion for urban development and her proven track record in Manchester will bring about remarkable progress for Birmingham as well, and we at Avison Young wish Joanne all the very best for the future.” 

Filling big shoes

The success of Sir Howard Bernstein, Roney’s predecessor at Manchester City Council, meant that whoever replaced him would have been closely scrutinised.

Despite that pressure, since 2017, Roney has exceeded expectations in the eyes of many. She has now left her own pair of big shoes to fill.

“She certainly had her work cut out taking over from Sir Howard Bernstein but from the outset she supported the continued success of the city,” said Caroline Baker, head of Cushman & Wakefield’s Manchester office.

Roney and Leader Cllr Bev Craig – who took over from Sir Richard Leese in 2021 – have proved a “powerful collaboration that has built upon the legacy [of Bernstein and Leese] and continued to shape a strong future,” Baker added.

“She will leave the city in a great place with recognition of the need to continue to support our economic growth as well as those who are less able to benefit from the city’s success.  She is an inspirational women and I’m sure she will be as successful in shaping the future of Birmingham.”

Jeremy Hinds, director of planning at Savills, also praised Roney for the ease with which she evaded Bernstein’s shadow.

“She rose to the challenge, doing it on her terms and with success. In many ways, she has exceeded expectations.

“Eyebrows were raised initially about whether someone without a property background would be able to deliver but she has proved all the doubters wrong.”

He added: “She has, in a substantial and meaningful way, forged and navigated new pathways within Greater Manchester following the creation of the mayoral position. The result has been for the benefit of GM as a whole, not just Manchester.”

Hinds believes Roney will be a “hard act to follow” and is destined for more success in the West Midlands.

“I wish her all the best in Birmingham but hope her success there will not usurp Manchester as the UK’s second city!”

Birmingham’s gain

Manchester’s loss is Birmingham’s gain in the eyes of Simon Raiye, director at developer HBD, which is active in both cities.

“Birmingham is at a pivotal moment, so we are delighted to see Joanne Roney stepping up as our new leader,” he said.

“As a native of Birmingham, Joanne brings not only a passion for our city but also an impressive track record that promises great things for its future.

“Joanne’s time in Manchester speaks volumes – her tenure in the city was impactful, contributing significantly to its transformation – in which developers played a key role. With Joanne now at the helm in Birmingham, we’re looking forward to collaborating and continuing to drive growth here.”

Suzanne Benson, partner at Trowers & Hamlins, agrees that Birmingham has recruited well.

“Joanne will be a really valuable appointment for Birmingham,” she said. “She took on her Manchester role at a very challenging time and has done a great job in putting her own stamp on the direction of the council.”

She added: “Her focus on true delivery of social value and supporting the next phase of the wider GM devolution plans will provide her successor with a strong platform for further growth.”

Being the chief executive of a city council is no easy task. Tom Stannard, who holds the top job at Salford, is perhaps better placed than most to judge Roney’s time in Manchester.

“She has been a phenomenal leader for Manchester and Greater Manchester,” he said.

“She has led the city with passion, dignity and skill through great adversity in the arena attack and Covid, and also to a brighter future with strong core services and enviable regeneration.

He added: “I’m proud that with our leaders we have made the Manchester/Salford partnership stronger than ever. I will miss her as a trusted friend and someone I’ve learnt a lot from. Birmingham has chosen well.”

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