Recreation chief gets top education job
Tim Howard, 42, landed the Pounds 55,000 job after all nine executive officers lost their posts in an exhaustive restructuring exercise.
The changes, which resulted in the borough being dubbed "the people's republic of Walsall", led to the removal of four posts, and the creation of five corporate board directorships and 54 "mini town halls" under locally- elected committees. Hard-left council leader Dave Church spearheaded the changes in the face of furious condemnation by the Labour national executive committee.
Mr Howard replaces Mike Quinn, who has taken early retirement and will remain in the authority until the end of March in the newly-created post of service co-ordinator.
Mr Howard's appointment has already proved unpopular with some moderate Labour councillors and opposition members, but he denied suggestions that he was not suitably qualified. He told The TES that before moving to the authority's recreation department he was head of community education for 10 years.
As Walsall's new corporate board director for education and cultural services, he anticipated there could be tensions between neighbourhood committees over issues such as secondary school places.
"But the important point is for the local authority to retain a constant strategic framework and not get involved in knee-jerk reactions every time a particular matter generates more than one opinion," he said.
Dudley Shipton, NAHT regional representative, said "Walsall headteachers are very concerned about the creation of these neighbourhood committees. They do not know who to go to for expert education advice in their area."
Critics of the decentralisation programme, including Bruce George, Labour MP for Walsall South, fear it will prompt schools to opt out of LEA control.
However, David Winchurch, the council's chief executive, said: "These stories about opting out are always given in local education authorities when there is any change people want to resist. But it simply is not true. We have no evidence whatsoever that governors are deciding to ballot."
Mr Winchurch said the new style of management would be unlikely to affect education. "Though the neighbourhood council budgets will include school budgets, they will not be able to touch them. But there is a belief they will develop ways of working with local schools which will be quite innovative, and services may be enhanced."