Council’s longest-serving Chief Executive will be stepping down one month after a no-confidence letter urged him to resign.
Middlesbrough Council chief executive Tony Parkinson has announced he will be stepping down.
Alex O’Leary www.gazettelive.co.uk /
Mr Parkinson – who is the council’s longest-serving chief executive and has been in the role since 2016 – is set to depart on March 24. Mr Parkinson, who is paid £155k a year and has a local government career spanning 33 years, has recently come under fire after concerns over the council’s bleak financial situation.
However, just one month after a no-confidence letter urged him to resign, the council boss has officially announced he will be stepping down. In a statement, he said he “loved every minute” of his time in Middlesbrough and added that “it is the right time to hand over the reins.”
Last month, Labour slammed the “scapegoating of officers” after 17 councillors called for Mr Parkinson to resign, saying they no longer had confidence in his ability. He had been blamed by politicians for the council’s financial situation following £12.4m cuts.
The 17 councillors who wrote a no-confidence letter included executive member for finance and governance Cllr Stefan Walker, chair of the council Cllr John Hobson, chair of the corporate affairs and audit committee Cllr Brian Hubbard, Conservative Group leader Cllr David Coupe and Middlesbrough Independent Group (MIG) leader Cllr Chris Hobson.
The letter raised a number of concerns, including the inadequate rating of the children’s services department in 2020, financial mismanagement, and even Mr Parkinson’s relationship with other politicians.
It came just as the council’s proposed budget revealed a £14.9m shortfall with £12.4m worth of cuts. This was a reduction from when the first budget measures, set out at the end of last year, outlined how £14.2m worth of cuts were expected.
In January, the council was issued a best value notice – a formal notification the government has concerns – following explosive reviews that exposed the local authority’s toxic culture. The letter, from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC), suggested that the Secretary of State Michael Gove could call on powers to launch an inspection or intervention if improvements weren’t made quickly.
Back in November 2021, Mr Parkinson easily survived a vote to scrap his job after 36 councillors voted against the proposals and five abstained. However, last July saw an audit reveal a lack of trust in the council. At the time, Mr Parkinson spoke out, saying council officers were operating in a culture where there were “sometimes attempts to coerce them, bully them, and intimidate them.”
Mr. Parkinson played a pivotal role in the council’s response to public sector cuts, delivering in excess of £113m in savings. He oversaw the response to the covid pandemic and the creation of Middlesbrough ’s Investment Strategy, which has achieved over £300m in investment for the town since 2017.
Mr Parkinson said: “I have loved every minute of my time in Middlesbrough, despite the challenges in local government generally and the more specific challenges that Middlesbrough faces. As we enter a new phase of activity with upcoming elections, it is the right time to hand over the reins to a new chief executive to take Middlesbrough forward.
“Middlesbrough is a place I love and I will miss witnessing the amazing work that council staff do every day. Their passion and commitment to the town and its residents often goes unrecognised but it has never ceased to inspire and amaze me.
“I haven’t given much thought as to what I will do next. I intend to take a little bit of time out to spend with family and friends, work on my golf handicap and get away for a few weeks before considering what, if anything, I want to do professionally.”
Middlesbrough Mayor Andy Preston said: “Thanks very much to Tony for over three decades of service to the town. His commitment to Middlesbrough is legendary. Tony has led Council staff through incredibly challenging times and I know people will be sad to see him leave. I’d like to wish him good luck for the future.”