City Council to agree contract extension with CEO as search starts for successor

Published: Friday, 25th September 2020

The City Council is being asked to agree an extension to the contract for its CEO, Gordon Mitchell, given the complexity of issues the Council is managing, in particular the COVID-19 pandemic.

The contract was due to expire in December.

Oxford City Council is being asked to agree an extension to the contract for its chief executive, Gordon Mitchell, given the complexity of issues the Council is managing, in particular the COVID-19 pandemic. The contract was due to expire in December.

The proposed four month extension to 30 April 2021 will provide more time for a smooth handover to a new permanent post-holder.

Gordon Mitchell was appointed originally as Interim Chief Executive on a fixed term contract from 15 May 2017 until 31 December 2017. Mr Mitchell then agreed to extend this to 31 December 2020, to enable continuity across a number of key initiatives the Council was taking forward under his leadership, including the establishment of Oxford Direct Services as a wholly-owned company, lobbying with partners for government investment in growth, and strengthening the capacity of the Council to manage and deliver the aspirations for major development projects.

Additionally it was envisaged Mr Mitchell would support the establishment of a new Council following the all-out elections in May 2020 and thereafter assist with the appointment of a new permanent Chief Executive. The crisis caused by the pandemic led to the postponement of the local elections until 6 May 2021. Under Mr Mitchell’s leadership the Council established an emergency response operating model involving the creation of locality hubs to coordinate support for vulnerable people across Oxford’s communities, while also introducing homeworking for the majority of council officers.

With the Council’s new working arrangements now embedded, a new four year Council Strategy in place and work progressing to address the financial impacts of the pandemic, it is prudent for recruitment to commence for Mr Mitchell’s successor, with his further contract extension affording more time for an orderly handover.

“Oxford has been fortunate to have had such an experienced chief executive at the helm of its City Council for the past three years. Gordon has transformed the way in which we operate, giving fresh impetus to our ‘Oxford Model’ – using in-sourcing rather than out-sourcing to private businesses to generate income - with formation of our direct services company ODS and our housing company OCHL. This has significantly strengthened the Council’s financial and organisational position, and our ability to manage the impacts of the COVID pandemic.

“Under Gordon’s guidance Oxford has been a beacon council in taking forward programmes to address climate change, and he brought rigour to the Council’s substantial capital development programmes which has led to significant progress in shaping plans for the developments in Blackbird Leys, Oxpens and Oxford Station.

“Gordon has also brought a strong focus to the issue of inclusivity, in terms of the role the Council plays in the city and how we run ourselves, and as an underpinning principle for the countywide Local Industrial Strategy and our work on developing an inclusive economy locally. He has strengthened our partnership working with key stakeholders across the universities, hospitals, public sector bodies and many businesses, civic and community groups, which has ensured Oxford has a distinct voice, and which is reflected in our new Council Strategy.

“I’m grateful to Gordon for agreeing to extend his tenure. This will give us time to find the right person to help Oxford continue to work for the interests of local residents, supporting an inclusive city, helping people through the pandemic and tackling climate change.”
Councillor Susan Brown, Leader of Oxford City Council

“I am grateful to Gordon for his calm and inclusive leadership during a period of considerable challenge, and for agreeing to extend his contract in response to unforeseen circumstances. Clearly our city and Council are going to look very different going forward, and stakeholders will need to work together to support our residents, visitors and the wider economy as effectively as we can. I am delighted that Gordon will play his part in that process in the coming months and help manage the transition to a permanent appointment.”
Councillor Andrew Gant, Leader of the Opposition, Oxford City Council

“I’ve learned what a great place Oxford is to live and work and I’m really pleased to support the council through this important transition.

“I have seen the council grow in its entrepreneurial style, its outward facing attitude and its success in building an incredibly wide range of beneficial partnerships through its city leadership. The closeness to communities and its championing of the causes that matter to local people and the future of the city is a model for other local authorities up and down the country and I am enjoying helping to support those ambitions."
Gordon Mitchell, CEO Oxford City Council

The Appointments Committee on 21 September 2020 agreed to commence an open recruitment process for the role of Chief Executive (also Head of Paid Service). The Council meeting of 5 October is asked to agree this, following which the process of recruitment of a new Chief Executive will start.