Wigan’s Donna Hall and Stockport’s Eamonn Boylan have emerged as the early frontrunners in the race to replace Sir Howard Bernstein at Manchester City Council.
The task of filling the shoes of the leading local government officer of his generation will begin officially when the council’s personnel committee meets in the coming weeks. The newcomer would expect to be in position by the start of the new administrative year in April 2017. While it’s not unknown for local politicians to stop into chief executive roles, Bernstein’s replacement is likely to be someone who has held a similar position from other councils.
Possible runners and riders already being tipped include:
Donna Hall, chief executive of Wigan Council, arrived initially as deputy chief executive in 2011. Seen around Manchester Town Hall frequently, where she is believed to be admired by leader Sir Richard Leese. Her community engagement initiative at Wigan, called ‘The Deal’, a “partnership approach to austerity with local residents” has been influential in shaping responses elsewhere in Greater Manchester. She is the lead officer on public sector reform within Greater Manchester Combined Authority
Eamonn Boylan, chief executive of Stockport Council since 2010, worked alongside Bernstein as deputy chief executive of Manchester until 2008 when he joined the Homes & Communities Agency. Lead officer on investment and finance at GMCA, remit includes steering the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework through drafting to adoption, one of big tasks lying ahead for the city region.
Charlie Parker, chief executive of Westminster Council, also worked with Bernstein at Manchester, where he was head of the inner city department in the 1990s. Spells at Liverpool and English Partnerships followed before five years at Oldham as chief executive, where he plugged a financial blackhole and kickstarted regeneration. An outsider-insider, it could prove hard to tempt him back to the city region
Martin Reeves, chief executive, Coventry City Council since 2009, won fans for lead role in creation of West Midlands Combined Authority. A pro-business, commercially-minded officer with good administration skills. However, as a PHD economist and former academic, one source said, “everyone knows Sir Richard Leese likes to be the cleverest man in the room, which rules out working with Martin”
Sean Harris, chief executive of Lambeth Council, left Bolton Council for the London borough at the start of 2015 after nearly a decade at the top in Bolton
Theresa Grant, chief executive of Trafford Council, said to have a combative style, holds portfolio at GMCA for skills and employment, could prove a factor as Manchester’s underperforming schools and prospects for children in poorer wards has lagged behind the shiny city centre renewal that Bernstein is best known for
Whoever it is, Manchester will be hoping “to avoid the David Moyes position” as one politician put it, when Sir Alex Ferguson also proved an extremely hard act to follow at Manchester United FC.
Someone who can cajole, get people on side, maintain business confidence after their hero has left, but also work with the new GM mayor, under a new Prime Minister and Chancellor, handle the devolution deal, maintain interest in the Northern Powerhouse, react to a possible Brexit downturn, and more, will have to be an impressive candidate.