Shock departures at Ealing Council

News raises questions over future of Response Programme

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In a surprise development Councillors have been informed that all the senior Council officers on Ealing's corporate board are standing down. The departures will take place between now and next Summer and will require the recruitment of 5 new officers at director level.

Several other heads of departments at the Council have left over the last 18 months with some suggesting that their concerns over the £50 million Response Programme were not being listened to.

The Chief Executive, Gillian Guy, is to leave when her contract expires in June. She said in a letter to Councillors, "Through my leadership over the last 11 years I have ensured the council has delivered significant improvements for our customers, culminating in the delivery of the Response programme."

The controversial 'Making a World of Difference' project aims to improve the way that the Council communicates with residents. Gillian Guy said of it in her letter to Councillors, "The programme is built not only on innovative and hard work, it is also built on evolution and transition, development and sustainability."

Johanna Law-Riding, who was widely seen as the main architect of the Response programme is also to depart in June. John Birch who had responsibility for environmental services will be retiring in March and Stephen Lawes, who has the financial portfolio, will be departing in August after the delivery of the next budget.

The departures mean that all the members of the slimmed down corporate board which currently runs the day to day business of the Council will leave within the next ten months.

Tory parliamentary spokesman for the Ealing, Acton and Shepherd's Bush constituency, Jonathan Gough said of the development, "By June we will have witnessed the voluntary or forced departure of almost every senior Officer of the Council, driven out by the disastrous and incompetent Labour Administration that has been there for far too long."

Although a letter from Gillian Guy informing councillors of the departures is adamant that the Response programme will proceed, there is speculation that the changes herald a significant rethink of the programme which is possibly the most expensive of its kind ever undertaken in local government. It has already required cutbacks in funding for local voluntary groups and the Council has significantly increased its debt burden to fund the project.

November 1, 2004