Board of Trustees

Our Board of Trustees provides strategic direction for our organisation and ensures our activities comply with current legislation and aligns with the objects of Birmingham Settlement.


Matthew Gregson – Chair

Matthew is a partner at Anthony Collins Solicitors LLP. In this role, Matthew advises local authorities, charities, housing associations, care providers and third sector organisations at a strategic and operational level.

Matthew has served in various roles in Birmingham and is a strong advocate for our city. He is also a trustee of a local foodbank, supporting some of the most vulnerable in our society.

From 2014 to 2017 Matthew was the Company Secretary at a global charity providing care for the elderly, and he has also been a trustee of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (CBSO).

Councillor John Cotton

John Cotton was first elected to Birmingham City Council in 1999 and represents the Glebe Farm and Tile Cross Ward in the east of the city. He is the Council’s Cabinet Member for Social Inclusion, Community Safety & Equalities, responsible for leading the city’s efforts to tackle social and economic injustice and building stronger safer communities. John has previously held Cabinet portfolios covering adult social care, public health and housing, which also reflect his passionate interest in tackling the root causes of poverty and disadvantage.

Over the course of a varied career, he has worked in private industry, as assistant to a Labour MP, in the voluntary sector and as a freelance public affairs consultant. John also chairs the national executive committee of Labour Housing Group, a national organisation campaigning for progressive and radical reform to housing policy.


Chris Etheridge

Chris is the current Headteacher of Kings Heath Boys, a secondary school in South Birmingham. Previously, Chris was Head of Tile Cross Academy in Kitts Green and got involved with Birmingham Settlement through community partnerships and the Kitts Green Hub. Chris has a wealth of HR experience and passionately believes that safe spaces to get advice and support around key areas such as personal finance, active lifestyles and personal well-being is where the settlement’s offer is unique.

As the client on a number of large building schemes within the education sector, Chris is particularly keen on the development of the Settlement’s Ladywood and Kingstanding hubs, and can provide experience to support us with these exciting projects.


Michael Burgess

Michael is a Director at Barclays, he joined as a graduate in 2004 and has worked within the Wealth Management business for the last 17 years. He provides advice to pension schemes, charities and individuals regarding the management of investments.

Michael has previously been a governor for St John’s and ST Peter’s Academy School in Ladywood, as well as a fundraising champion for St Basils and a trustee for University of First Age. Michael is looking forward to seeing first-hand the difference that the Settlement makes to local communities.

Alex Ballinger

Alex is the CEO of Germain’s Wellbeing, a small mental health charity in Edgbaston. He previously worked for the Department for International Development where he ran health, education and employment projects for Syrian refugees in Jordan and Turkey, and led the UK’s development programming in Northwest Pakistan. He was later Head of the UK’s diplomatic office in Lahore. Before working in international development he served as an officer in the Royal Marines, serving twice in Afghanistan.

Alex brings experience of running large projects and working with asylum seekers and refugees, and is looking forward to helping Birmingham Settlement increase its impact amongst hard to reach communities.


Rodney Garnes

Rodney is from the beautiful island of Barbados, having completed his third Master’s programme, in Crisis and Disaster Management at the Aston University,  which was closely followed by embarking on further studies, acquiring a level 3 Diploma in Railway Engineering, which are complemented by prior qualifications in Project Management and Information Technology at the Diploma level. Rodney is currently an On Train Technician with Network Rail on the Measurement Train. 

Rodney has filled many roles from the Caribbean to as far as China, focusing on areas such as Disaster Planning and Response Officer, Damage Coordinator, Safety and Health, Small Projects Coordinator and consultant, just to name a few.

He has passion for physical activities and frequently goes running and hiking to maintain good health and is a certified Living Streets (UK) walk leader. He regularly participates in 10k races such as The Xian City run, The Great Birmingham Run and Run Barbados.  Rodney loves Photography and has achieved National Geographic’s “Photo of the Day” on several occasions, additionally, he has been involved or volunteered with youth and community project, mainly aimed at capacity building, for organisations such as UN I Volunteer Programme, English Corner, Canal and River Trust and The Royal Voluntary Service.