Oldham Council to seek new chief executive

Following an exclusive broken on this website yesterday morning (read here), the news that Dr Carolyn Wilkins OBE, Chief Executive of Oldham Metropolitan Borough Council and accountable officer of NHS Oldham Clinical Commissioning Group, is leaving after more than 12 years in Oldham has now been confirmed by the Council’s press office. This is their statement in full:

Dr Wilkins has recently concluded an 11-month secondment to the Department of Health and Social Care, working to focus national and regional support to councils across the country as they tackle Covid-19.

She said: “As for so many people, the last 18 months have been among the most challenging of my career to date.

“But the way that people have come together to do what was needed has been truly brilliant to see.

“It’s been a real privilege to be part of Team Oldham and to work with so many amazing people dedicated to doing their best for our borough.

“Being able to play my part for local government as a whole has also been hugely rewarding. I feel now is the right time for change and I wish all in Team Oldham the very best.”

As well as leading the council and CCG in Oldham, Dr Wilkins also held the lead chief executive role at Greater Manchester level on issues including the Safer and Stronger Communities portfolio, and the Greater Manchester Population Health Board. She was appointed to the NHS Assembly in March 2019.

Dr Wilkins has been the Chief Executive of Oldham Council since 2014, but has been a central part of its Leadership since joining the council in 2009. 

She developed the organisation’s co-operative approach, delivered key regeneration projects including the Old Town Hall and more recently steered Oldham through the Coronavirus pandemic. In 2018, she became the Accountable Officer of NHS Oldham CCG where she has also led significant improvements.

Dr Wilkins was awarded an OBE (Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List in 2016 for her services to local government and public service reform.

Councillor Arooj Shah, Leader of the Council said: “I would like to place on record my thanks to Carolyn for all she has achieved in Oldham throughout her 12 years here.

“More recently she has steered us through our response to the pandemic and leaves a huge legacy to follow. I wish her well for all she does in the future.”

Majid Hussain, Chair of NHS Oldham CCG said “I and on behalf of Colleagues at the CCG want to express thanks to Carolyn for her leadership of NHS Oldham CCG and her wider leadership across the Health and Care system.

“As a leader she has contributed to and helped progress a number of areas including the development of the Team Oldham approach and the integration of services which will no doubt deliver better outcomes for the communities of Oldham.

“I wish her every success in her future endeavours.”

A recruitment process to replace Dr Wilkins will follow in due course.

The statement does not say who is presently running Oldham Council and performing the duties of Statutory Officer. It is understood that Dr Wilkins had been on gardening leave for the past two weeks or so.

Garden[ing] leave describes the practice whereby an employee leaving a job – having resigned or otherwise had their employment terminated – is instructed to stay away from work during the notice period, whilst still remaining on payroll.

A further statement has been sought from the press office on that and other crucial, public interest points. This is the press request in full:

“Can you please provide the following further information, please?

 – Has Dr Wilkins left with immediate effect.

– If not, when does she leave.

 – Who is presently running the Council and performing the function of Statutory Officer.

– Has Dr Wilkins received a financial settlement as part of the arrangement of her leaving the Council.

– Has Dr Wilkins and the Council entered into a NDA (Non-Disclosure Agreement).

– Did she tender her resignation or was she asked to leave”.

The rest of the Oldham Council Executive Management Team (see here) may well have good cause to be looking over their shoulder. Especially the two who owe their positions to the patronage and friendship of Carolyn Wilkins: Helen Lockwood and Rebekah Sutcliffe. Both arrived at Oldham with huge questions hanging over them from their previous employment at Rossendale Borough Council and Greater Manchester Police, respectively.

UPDATE: In a further statement in response to the questions put to the Council earlier today a spokeswoman has confirmed that Dr Wilkins is ‘currently taking a period of leave’ and it is expected that she ‘will leave the Council during August, subject to the consideration of the Appointments Committee’.

‘Whilst the Chief Executive is currently on leave, the same arrangements apply as when she has previously been on leave or on secondment. Deputy Chief Executive, Helen Lockwood, is deputising until permanent arrangements are put in place’

‘An appointments panel is being convened, which will consider what arrangements would most appropriate in the immediate and longer term for the organisation and the Borough’.

‘A similar process will take place in accordance with the NHS CCG governance’.

‘The terms and conditions of the departure of the Chief Executive will be considered by the Appointments Committee, which is due to meet next week [3rd August]’.

Members appointed to serve on this Committee are Councillors Chadderton, Jabbar, Shah, Sheldon, and Sykes.

The Council has not confirmed whether a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) has been entered into, but say that Dr Wilkins ‘left by mutual consent’.

More to follow.

Page last updated at 2205hrs on Tuesday 27th July, 2021.

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© Neil Wilby 2015-2021. Unauthorised use, or reproduction, of the material contained in this article, without permission from the author, is strictly prohibited. Extracts from, and links to, the article (or blog) may be used, provided that credit is given to Neil Wilby, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Published by Neil Wilby

Former Johnston Press area managing director. Justice campaigner. Freelance investigative journalist.

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