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The Trajectory: Jane Portman, Bournemouth BC

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LGC’s quickfire quiz hears from newly appointed chief executives and senior officers on the highs, lows, challenges and lessons

portman jane for web

portman jane for web


Name: Jane Portman

Move: From executive director of adults and children’s services to managing director in June, both at Bournemouth BC. I have previously worked for Portsmouth, Southampton and Bristol city councils, Northamptonshire CC and Borough of Poole.

First job in local government: I started teaching at a secondary school in Leigh Park, Portsmouth in September 1985.

Prior experience: I’m particularly proud of my two years working for VSO (voluntary service overseas), training 170 local people in the West Indies to become teachers. 

Education: I’ve learnt that partnership working can be the most challenging but also the most rewarding approach for the public sector community.

Proudest career achievement: One thing – impossible! For children, turning around the Bournemouth education system, from many schools requiring special measures to almost all Good or Outstanding schools, a legacy for today’s and tomorrow’s children; and Bournemouth’s new regional adoption agency, Aspire Adoption, only the second in the UK.

For older people, setting up adult social care provider, Tricuro, with Dorset CC and Poole, the first local authorty trading company to span three upper-tier councils, alongside a safeguarding peer review that concluded we continue to provide high-quality services for the most vulnerable.

For places, being part of the corporate management team leading Bournemouth’s ongoing renaissance – seeing our town centre vision become a reality – largely through our local asset backed vehicle – The Bournemouth Development Company; seeing our world-class seafront prosper further, and steering the town’s economy to further thrive, with the fastest growing creative and digital sector in the country.

And most recently, being part of the senior leadership team driving our sustainability and transformation plan for Dorset – one of only five nationally rated outstanding.

Toughest career experience: Making the decision to close a consistently failing school, in the face of strong and vocal local opposition. It was the right decision – since then, we’ve found a sponsor, rebuilt and opened a new school, which is now rated outstanding.

Best thing about working in local government: I know it’s clichéd but it really is the people. The strong leadership and clear direction from our members, their sometimes brave and agile decision-making. The resilience and creativity I see in our staff every day, their commitment and motivation, despite years of austerity; and the trust and confidence developed from building strong relationships and working with partners.

I love collaborating to build confidence in our place and our community. For example, being part of the current Key Cities movement will see Bournemouth not just access funding and investment for our area, but, with others, collectively influence and facilitate an investment and growth agenda that supports the country.

What I wish I’d known when I started out: Local government work can be really exciting and stimulating – get involved!

Work/life balance: Leave means leave. I’ll give the council my commitment and access 24/7, but those 30 days annual leave a year are just that – leave. Devices off, phone off, no email.

Advice to tomorrow’s chiefs and senior officers: Always think outside of your organisation, your service responsibilities and your council’s geographical area. The greatest achievements for public services, for residents and for places are usually achieved by working in partnership, across organisations and across boundaries.

Any other business: I was the youngest person in the UK (at the time) to become an accredited Ofsted inspector.

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