Controversial council chief opens up

SUFFOLK'S new chief executive has lifted the lid on what makes her tick after answering a series of questions thrown at her by the county's workforce.

Neil Puffett

SUFFOLK'S new chief executive has lifted the lid on what makes her tick after answering a series of questions thrown at her by the county's workforce.

Controversy was sparked when Andrea Hill was appointed as Suffolk's new chief executive on a massive £220,000 a year, £70,000 more than her predecessor Mike More.

She is now embarking on a charm offensive and has fielded a number of questions put to her by staff at the council revealing how she:

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- strived to be a banker

- practices Astranga yoga - otherwise known as “power yoga”

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- feared she would go bust when the builder converting a barn into a house for her went bankrupt

- achieved her ambition by running a marathon with world-record holder Paula Radcliffe

In a series of in depth answers, Mrs Hill said she fell into local government by accident after failing to break into merchant banking.

She soon became hooked and worked her way up to assistant chief executive at Cambridge City Council prior to taking the chief executive's chair at Colchester Borough Council in 2001 and Bedfordshire County Council in 2004.

She said: “What brought me into local government is what brings all of us here, the sense of public service.

“What keeps me here is that same sense - a commitment to local services and making a difference.

“Leaving Bedfordshire was a very difficult decision, I had created a sense of 'family' there.

“But the county is going to be split into two unitary authorities and I think they need a fresh pair of eyes to take the work forward.”

Mrs Hill said she is keen to “unlock people's energy and creativity” in Suffolk and will not tolerate 'jobsworths'.

She said: “I like people to be very open-minded; to look for solutions.

“I like people to be fast and responsive.

“I don't like 'jobsworths' - people who won't try and help our customers.

“There are lots of different people in local government, and we all bring something different to the party: that's why I value diversity.

“I like people to tell me how it really is, not what they think I want to hear.”

On the subject of the ongoing review into the way Suffolk will be governed in the future, Mrs Hill said a single unitary Suffolk will offer the best value for money for Suffolk people but conceded it is a debate for the community.

Answering a question about what had been her biggest challenge, Mrs Hill said turning Bedfordshire round from being a broken council into a very strong performer was her biggest work challenge.

Her biggest personal challenge came when the builder working on her home in Cambridgeshire went bankrupt.

She said: “I honestly thought we were going to go under financially.

“I'd just taken a new job as chief executive two days before and I also had three children to provide a home for.

“That was a very scary time.”

Meanwhile Mrs Hill, who is a keen marathon runner, recording a number of impressive times in the London Marathon, said she achieved her ambition when she qualified for the event's elite race and began alongside world record-holder Paula Radcliffe.

She said: “I ran with her for the first 20 seconds but she finished 45 minutes ahead of me.

“The following Sunday I was fortunate enough that she came to open a sports centre in Bedfordshire, so I was in the official line-up to greet her.

“I mentioned that I'd run the marathon with her the week before: she was lovely and we chatted about the conditions and the crowd, what she was feeling and what her race was like, and she asked me about my race and what I'd felt about my performance on the day.”

- Following weeks of uncertainty the correct way of pronouncing Mrs Hill's name has been revealed.

Sources in Bedfordshire had previously told the Star Mrs Hill was keen on her first name being pronounced correctly along the lines of On-dreya.

Mrs Hill has now scotched that version, revealing the proper pronunciation is Arn-dree-a.

She said: “Sorry it's difficult: I don't mind people getting it wrong, but I would like people to try it.”

- Andrea-isms

- If you stand still you'll go backward.”

- It's fine to make mistakes, as long as you learn from them and improve your performance as a result.”

- “Being exceptional means being brave, focused, and motivated towards change.”

- “An organisation is only made by the people in it, and we're stronger as a team.”

Fast facts: Astanga yoga

- A decade ago, astanga yoga (pronounced Ashtanga) was almost unheard of outside India.

- Today, it is the fastest-growing yoga discipline.

- It has also been referred to as “power yoga'.

- It is said this is the discipline that gave Madonna her post-pregnancy physique and, according to the star, a more compassionate outlook on life. It is also practised by fellow superstar, Sting.

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