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An interview with Barry Quirk, Chief Executive

Kensington and Chelsea is recruiting to five new senior posts devoted to boosting housing and social investment, place-shaping and community engagement, as well as recruiting a corporate strategy director to coordinate and drive change across the whole council.

Two years after the Grenfell tragedy the council is changing its whole culture to put the needs of communities first and better engage with its residents, especially those who live in more deprived parts of the borough. This is alongside the critical task of supporting the recovery of the bereaved and survivors. It is now reorganising its senior team to look at creative and imaginative ways of generating more social and affordable housing and maximising benefits for its communities. Chief executive Barry Quirk says: ‘Over the past two years the council has been changing its governance, its overall policy stance, its management arrangements, and its overarching culture. These changes have been driven by a clear moral imperative to learn the lessons of the appalling Grenfell tragedy and to shape an organisation that is fit to serve its communities and is fit for the future. The council is determined to reconnect with local communities and citizens; to reshape its services to be more attuned to the needs of residents and communities; and to revitalise its organisation so as to enable these changes to happen swiftly.’ He adds: ‘We’re making progress but we need to increase the pace and make sure we’re even closer to our communities. We’ve made huge changes but we need to do more. Expectations from our residents are rightly extremely high and that of the hundreds of bereaved and survivors from Grenfell are even higher.’

Under the new structure the housing services will be reshaped under a new Housing & Social Investment directorate, led by an Executive Director. Three permanent Director posts are to be established within this new directorate (Housing Management, Housing Needs & Supply, and Social Investment & Property) all reporting to the Executive Director. This new directorate will focus on investing in the council’s homes – the management of which was taken back in-house last year with the backing of residents – and on improving its repair and maintenance service to those homes. The directorate will also focus on increasing the supply of social and genuinely affordable housing in the borough in closer partnership with other local social housing landlords. And it will develop a new ground-breaking approach to investment which is based on delivering social and community benefit alongside investing for the public interest.

The new team will ensure the council’s housing investment programme of some £350m over the next six years is properly focused, harnesses social investment into the borough and sees that all of its programmes of investment meet community needs and deliver social and public benefit. In support of this, a new Director of Planning & Place will take forward the council’s place-shaping functions and services, and a new Director of Communities will lead on engagement and community safety. A new post of Director of Corporate Strategy is also being created to ensure the effective and timely delivery of the organisation’s new council plan and the corporate functions of programme and performance management. The council is therefore looking to fill six posts, an Executive Director of Housing and Social Investment, a Director of Housing Needs and Supply, a Director of Social Investment and Property, a Director of Planning and Place, a Director of Communities, and a Director of Corporate Strategy. Barry adds: ‘We’re looking for people who can connect with communities and think laterally, who are professionals but can bring a fresh approach to housing, social investment and property. We don’t necessarily need people with a commercial property background but who have worked perhaps in the area of social venture capital. What we do need are people who can see potential.’ 

The council recently completed its biggest ever ‘conversation’ with residents in which over 2,000 people from every part of the borough provided over 5,000 comments and ideas through many different forums. Over 1,000 young people, parents and youth organisations also participated and the results form part of the council plan for the future. Barry adds: ‘People coming here to work are energised by what we’re doing which is to reshape local government professionalism. But you can only do it by being genuinely connected to your communities and that’s our priority. These new posts will help deliver our goals.’ 

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