In only a few weeks, long service Chief Executive Gavin Jones will be leaving us to join Essex County Council in a similar capacity and it is important that we ensure continuity and a smooth transition to his eventual full time successor, writes Swindon Council leader David Renard.
I am pleased to announce that John Gilbert, presently Board Director, Commissioning, will be taking up additional duties as the Interim Chief Executive. John arrived at the Borough Council at the end of March 2008 and he currently holds two of the most important roles in the Council as the officer statutorily responsible for the children and adults in the Borough’s care.
Although there are a few councils across the country that have experimented with alternatives such as abolishing the post of Chief Executive and sharing the duties or down-grading the post to Managing Director, in my view these are not suitable for Swindon. In fact, the overwhelming majority of Councils have a CEO.
We have our Vision to deliver with its four priorities and thirty pledges. Not only will this require a great effort across the Council to mobilise staff, it will also involve greater working with other public sector agencies, private businesses and the voluntary and charity sector. A managing director role might address the Council’s internal management needs, but the post would lack the weight and capacity that Swindon needs when dealing with those outside the Civic Offices.
Alongside this, the demand for more and enhanced Council services continues to grow. This is driven by demography – we have more people living longer and a rising birth rate, too – and by rising expectations of the quality of services we can provide. At the same time, our sources of income are severely restrained or, in the case of government grants, are being reduced. Some people may try to make political capital by offering up the Chief Executive post as a saving. I reject any such any such ideas as shortsighted and self-defeating.
We have to deliver £17.5m of savings this year and around £20m each year for the next two years.
All these choices require strong, clear administrative and political leadership, which can only come from having a Chief Executive to support me in my role as Leader of the Council. We cannot afford to have a gap at the top of the Council’s administrative side while we complete the recruitment process.
John is an interim appointee as the Council has agreed to recruit a new Chief Executive. The process will involve councillors from all three parties as well as external specialist advisors. I hope that we will be making a positive announcement early in the New Year.