Dorset County Council bids farewell chief executive

Dorset County Council has announced the departure of its current chief executive, Debbie Ward, after six years at the helm.

Dorset County Council’s Staffing Committee agreed that Ms Ward, who also holds the statutory responsibility for the director for adult social services, will end her term as chief executive on 30 November. The decision is in line with legal requirements and the county council’s redundancy policy.

Ms Ward joined the council in 2010 as director for adult and community services before taking up her position as chief executive in 2012. She was one of the original officers supporting the case for change to local government in Dorset, helping to drive the reorganisation of Dorset’s nine councils into two new, unitary authorities.

She said: “Six years ago, I had the privilege to be the first woman to become the chief executive of Dorset County Council and, I had no idea at that time, I would be the lastever chief executive.

Those six years have flown by and I have enjoyed working with fantastic people both inside and outside the council. They have also been the toughest years Dorset County Council have ever seen, with massive budget reductions and, as chief executive, I set out my ambition for us to travel that journey and go forward together, putting services, communities and transformation at the heart of our thinking, as we did what we had to.

As my role is coming to an end, I would like to thank everyone for their hard work, support and challenge that has made a difference and achieved so much for the county. I have been inspired and have enjoyed working with all colleagues.

Having led us to this point where I believe a strong and sustainable future for our public services can be delivered, I am grateful to the members of the county council’s staffing Ccmmittee for agreeing that now is the right time for me to step aside and handover the ambition for the future to the new Dorset councils.

Between November and April, work will continue to establish the new organisation and many colleagues from all the authorities will be working hard to ensure a safe and legal transfer and shape the services for the future.”

Leader of Dorset County Council Cllr Rebecca Knox said: “I would like to thank Debbie for the huge contribution she has made over the past eight years to Dorset County Council. As chief executive, she has led the organisation through a period of modernisation which has improved our efficiency, transformed the culture of the organisation, and enabled us to deliver better services for residents.”

Following Ms Ward’s departure, Mike Harries, corporate director for environment and economy, has been recommended by the staffing committee for the role of interim chief executive of Dorset County Council through to 31 March 2019.

Nick Jarman, corporate director for children’s services, will take on the responsibilities of statutory director for adult social care (DASS) – this is in addition to his current role as director for children’s services. These recommendations will be considered at the full council meeting on 8 November.