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Departing Lucas promises to stay involved with the sector

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Irene Lucas intends to remain involved with the local government sector because it would be a “tragedy” to walk away, she has told LGC.

The well-regarded former chief executive of South Tyneside MBC announced that she would leave the Department for Communities & Local Government in March to spend more time on her Sunderland-based travel company Hays Travel.

Ms Lucas joined Whitehall as director general for local government and regeneration 18 months ago, and spent the past six months as acting permanent secretary.

Colleagues reacting to her announcement urged Ms Lucas to remain a local government operator and she told LGC that she had been “inundated” with suggestions.

“It would be a tragedy for me to completely walk away from something I care so much about,” she said.

Areas of interest include wellbeing and communities, and local government productivity, but she emphasised that she was not looking for full-time employment because she wanted “more flexibility” to spend time on her travel business.

Mary Orton, honorary secretary of the Association of Local Authority Chief Executives, said she hoped Ms Lucas would return to local government. “I think Irene is amazing, but I’m sure she must have found the transition from local government to the civil service a very difficult one,” she said.

Another chief executive, who did not want to be named, said local government needed good people more than ever. He added that “the often inspirational Irene” had seemed “downbeat and lacklustre” at a recent event, suggesting a “lack of belief in what she was being expected to do”. ”

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