Major challenge for council chief

HE has just taken charge of the county's worst-performing and most hard-up council.So it was not surprising that the new chief executive of Waveney District Council said: "I wouldn't be here if I didn't like a challenge.

HE has just taken charge of the county's worst-performing and most hard-up council.

So it was not surprising that the new chief executive of Waveney District Council said: "I wouldn't be here if I didn't like a challenge."

Glen Garrod began his £90,000-a-year job last week after leaving the Isle of Wight Council where he was corporate director for adult and community services.

Mr Garrod admitted he faced a lot of hard work if he was to turn around the fortunes of the council officially rated as "weak" by the Audit Commission and which has "barely acceptable" financial reserves.


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But his vision is to build a stronger council that within two years should be capable of moving up the Audit Commission's rankings by one place to "fair" or even two places to "good".

Mr Garrod aims to do this by building stronger partnerships with other organisations, monitoring the council's performance to achieve improved focus and to reconnect with the public.

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This may sound like management speak, but Mr Garrod believed it was what the district really needed - a council that recognised what its residents wanted and needed, and which did its best to achieve that.

"The council has come in for a lot of criticism and for me this is the ideal situation to come in and really make a difference," said Mr Garrod.

"If you look at key issues which have come up in recent months - such as the caravan parks dispute in Lowestoft and Southwold - it has often been about one key thing - the council needs to listen to the public."

But he admitted the job will not be easy. "If within two years we can get the council's rating up to 'fair', then I will be pleased with that," said Mr Garrod.

"It is very difficult to achieve an improvement in the Government's ranking and that is especially true when you are in a financial position like ours.

"But a lot of good work has been done in recent months, not least setting a council tax level which is sustainable and which can allow us to rebuild our finances."

Mr Garrod saw the regeneration of Lowestoft as a priority, but felt it was also important to recognise the wider community, including Southwold and Beccles.

"Waveney is a diverse community, in fact it is several communities, some of which don't have much in common. For example, Lowestoft and Southwold are two very different towns," he said.

"We need to listen to the needs of each area and group. This may be by developing better relationships with town and parish councils or it may be by encouraging more young people to vote."

Mr Garrod will work with Louise Jordan Hall, previously acting chief executive and now assistant chief executive. The council also hopes to appoint next month two corporate directors - the second most senior roles at the council.

"By the end of the elections I hope to have gained a feel for the job and a better understanding of what needs to be done," said Mr Garrod.

"The last thing I want to do is come in and take over before I have a full appreciation of the council. This is a long-term job and we won't turn the council round overnight."

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