Leeds City Council – Chief Executive

This is your chance to build on Leeds’ success story and play a pivotal role in achieving our ultimate ambition – to become the UK’s best city.

Whoever becomes the next chief executive of Leeds City Council will be landing one of the biggest jobs in local government at a critical time.

The departure of current chief Tom Riordan after 14 years in the role will leave big shoes to fill, admits leader Councillor James Lewis, but it also creates an opportunity for someone ‘to make their own mark’.

England’s second largest local authority serves a diverse population of more than 800,000 people in a place that’s become renowned for its vibrant city centre and distinctive hinterland of historic towns and rural villages.

In recent years its economic growth and regeneration – delivered largely without Government subsidy – have seen it become one of only two cities outside London to be net contributors to the Treasury.

‘We have a strong corporate leadership team, we’re a big organisation, we’re well respected within local government and by national government, Westminster and key Whitehall departments,’ says Cllr Lewis. ‘If there’s a new Government coming then those relationships will become even more important. We also need to keep driving the quality of our services whether its our ‘Outstanding’ rated childrens services or our strong adult social care’

On top of that, the council has led a Team Leeds approach to drive the city forward which brings together a network of public sector institutions, businesses and third sector organisations that work in partnership. It’s been highly effective, says Cllr Lewis, and an LGA peer review team described the ‘best city ambition’ as ‘a powerful way of galvanizing partners across the city at a time of less resource’.

‘So as well as that leadership at a national level, we’re looking for someone capable of working with all those institutions around our shared ambitions,’ he adds.

Internally, the next chief executive will lead the council’s transformation programme as, like most local authorities, it continues to manage rising demand and constrained resources.

‘I think we have got a strong and focused leadership approach in terms of the officers and administration working effectively together around delivering the same ambitions within our budget.’

But for Cllr Lewis, the ultimate challenge for Tom’s successor is to take forward what will be truly transformational projects. Leeds has achieved significant growth despite the shortcomings of its transport infrastructure but that has to change if progress is to be sustained, he says.

‘We’re the largest city in Europe without a mass transit system. If we are to continue growing and do so in a sustainable way then it’s vital that we have more effective public transport.

‘Leeds is successful but we need to make sure everyone benefits and recognise that there are deep-seated challenges around poverty and inequality. Everyone must have the chance to take part in our success and benefit from the economic growth we are seeing. Alongside better public transport, housing growth, council, social and private, is key to that.

Top of the list for the next chief executive is ensuring the city delivers on a long-held ambition to develop a tram system. Bus franchising is also on the agenda to remedy a deregulated bus system that Cllr Lewis argues ‘hasn’t delivered for our communities’.

The chief executive will play a key role in achieving these ambitions, using their skills in negotiations with Government and within West Yorkshire Combined Authority.

‘Being part of the combined authority gives us an opportunity to really make a step change in the city’s public transport network and economy. This is about making the best out of devolution.’

He would also like to see Leeds host more major events and build on recent successes such as staging the UKREIF and the World Triathlon.

‘This is an area where I think we can do more on. I’m still sad about missing out on Eurovision! Again. the new chief executive can really play a part in that.’

The council’s ambition for this key recruitment matches its overriding aspirations for the city – it wants the best. While local government experience is vital, those who have also worked in central government and the private sector could have the ideal blend to be corporate leader for a council as large as Leeds.

‘There’s so much for the next chief to get their teeth into. We’re looking for the best in terms of city and place leadership.’

Cllr Lewis adds: ‘This is a great place to work and there’s a huge amount of progress being made. But there’s a lot to do. For example, we’re rethinking part of the city centre, we’ve got new housing and economic development. There’s a lot going on and this is a great opportunity to be part of a growing successful city.’

Cllr James Lewis

Cllr James Lewis