Letter from the Chief Executive
Thank you for expressing an interest in this role. In this short letter I hope to give you a flavour of what it is like to live and work in West Berkshire, some information about the Council, and highlight where you can find out more.
West Berkshire constitutes over half of the geographical area of Berkshire and has a population of just under 160,000. It lies at the head of the Thames Valley and is fortunate to exhibit many of the economic strengths associated with that area whilst also having a natural environment more often associated with the South West. 70% of West Berkshire is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
We have a growing, and ageing, population with very high levels of economic activity and a mixed economy with a focus on ICT and communications. West Berkshire is home to Vodafone; the Atomic Weapons Establishment at Aldermaston and Burghfield; and a thriving horse racing industry in the Lambourn Valley. The area is well connected with the M4 and A34 running through the heart of the District providing direct communications to London, Bristol, the South Coast and the Midlands. There are direct, now electrified, rail links to London and the South West.
You can find out a lot more about West Berkshire, the pace and its people in our District Needs Assessment.
West Berkshire Council is one of six unitary authorities in Berkshire all created in 1998. The Council currently has a Conservative Administration with ‘all out’ elections taking place next May. The Council has been subject to a boundary review which will see the number of councillors reduce from 52 to 43 next year. Being rural in nature, parish councils form an important part of the local governance and West Berkshire Council seeks to actively work with parish and town councils in a variety of ways to ensure good collaborative working remains in place.
The Council operates the Cabinet with Leader model of governance and has done so for a number of years. Details of the current Executive can be found here. A new Council Strategy is currently being developed to take the Council forward from 2019 following next year’s Election. A copy of the current Strategy is available here. I would also highlight the draft of West Berkshire 2036 which has been prepared by the Health and Wellbeing Board and gives a good feel for what we are seeking to achieve for West Berkshire with our partners over the long term.
As part of the work in preparing our new Corporate Strategy we have been working with South East Employers to help review our senior management arrangements for the medium term. It has been decided to retain the ‘People, Place and Resources’ model which has been in place here for a number of years. The new post of Executive Director (People) reflects the previous role of Corporate Director (Communities) and the current Communities Directorate is expected to closely mirror the new People Directorate going forward.
In establishing the new Executive Director role Members have signified a desire to strengthen, even further, the corporate and strategic nature of the role. We are looking for an individual who is not only passionate about leading our People agenda but also someone who relishes the opportunity to support our Corporate Programme and thereby work effectively across the Council and with our partners on a range of key projects. If successful you would be expected to become actively involved in our work on building stronger community resilience, demand management, commercialisation and improving social mobility across West Berkshire.
Like much of local government we have significant financial challenges, most notably in social care. We are proud of our strong financial management and will be looking for an individual who can clearly demonstrate a proven track record and ability in this critical area.
Our website will hopefully provide you will all the information you need. An internet search will no doubt add more including what others say about us!
We are proud of what we have achieved across our current Communities Directorate being rated Good for Children’s Services and performing well through our recent SEND inspection. There is however more to do to improve outcomes for our most vulnerable children and families. Our adult social care provision is generally good and we have very good working relationships with our health partners which helps support our integration work and the development of the Berkshire West Integrated Care System. Our collaborative arrangements for Public Health will provide significant opportunities for developing work more widely across Berkshire and the STP. You will of course be a key member of our Health and Wellbeing Board.
On a personal note I have been Chief Executive at the Council for 13 years having joined in 1998 as a Head of Service. I have stayed because I like the place and I like the Authority. Many comment on the ‘family friendly’ feel that the Council exudes and that is something I have sought to retain. I am now focused on building a Team that can take the Council forward into the next decade. We have an experienced Team of senior managers that have been recently supplemented by a number of excellent arrivals both from within and outside the Authority. Working relationships with Members and partners are extremely strong. If you would like to be part of that Team I look forward to your application.