I’ve become the chief executive of a council born with a belief that anything is possible. What more could somebody passionate about our sector want?
I joined in 1997 as we prepared for unitary status. It was an exciting time, with officers and members united in a belief that we would create an authority which would never accept being average. That drive and resilience remains in our DNA today, albeit with a few scars from responding to £40m cuts in two years.
The pace and the demands make it an often unforgiving but always an extremely rewarding place. I can’t think of anywhere I’d rather be.
I’ve had various roles during the past 15 years - starting off in social services and moving to the corporate centre as an executive director then deputy chief executive.
It was especially satisfying to spend time with a new intake given that’s how I started my career when I was just 16.
My appointment came the same week that the council launched a new apprenticeship programme. It was especially satisfying to spend time with a new intake given that’s how I started my career when I was just 16. We have one the youngest populations in the country, a strength we intend to build on so making sure we set an example to other employers in the borough is something we take seriously.
Our corporate plan has been refreshed. We’ve always been known for our strong partnerships and we are taking advantage of that as we continue to build a new relationship with residents - fulfilling our ‘working with you’promise, alongside making progress on ambitious quality of life outcome measures focusing on income levels, skills, jobs, health and quality infrastucture.
We are self-aware and know the importance of celebrating success. We’ve twice been named the LGC Council of the Year and our integration with health is something we continue to take great pride in.
Some exceptional challenges remain in the borough - with high deprivation levels and all that brings. That is why nothing will stop us finding ways to make the most of our assets - living up to our reputation of finding exceptional responses. My time and track record at Blackburn with Darwen gives me the confidence and determination to fight for everything that our communities need and deserve.
Harry Catherall, chief executive, Blackburn with Darwen BC