Wednesday, 8 April 2009

National award for controversial temporary council officer

THE work of West Somerset Council’s controversial temporary chief officer Dr Jack Neal has been recognised with a national award from the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives (SOLACE).
Dr Neal’s appointment hit the headlines because he was costing £3,500 a week at a time when the council was already in a financial crisis after Independent councillors took control from the Conservatives at local elections.
The council had lost its chief executive and deputy chief executive in quick succession after the coalition of Independent councillors began running the authority.
Dr Neal, aged 61, who lives near Honiton, Devon, was given a temporary contract to try to turn around the management of the council.
Now, his work has been recognised at the prestigious SOLACE interim manager of the year awards, held in Claridge’s Hotel, Mayfair, London.
He received the runner-up award in the strategic management category.
West Somerset economic development portfolio holder Councillor Michael Downes said: “It is no mean feat given that we are a small council and the winners came from larger London authorities.
“I am delighted that the work he did with us has been acknowledged.
“He has fantastic management skills and I am pleased these have been recognised on a national scale.”
Adrian Dyer, who has since become the council’s chief officer with the title executive director, said: “I am absolutely delighted for Jack.
“He is an inspirational manager and excellent problem-solver who is not phased by anything.
“I have learned a lot from him, and the council as a whole has seen marked and lasting improvements thanks to his help.”
  • Our photograph shows Councillor Michael Downes (left) and Dr Jack Neal. Photo submitted.

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

BUSINESS NEWS: Skills workshop to boost future business prospects

UNDERSTANDING West Somerset employers’ skills and employment needs and providing good training opportunities to ensure competitive futures for local firms are some of the themes of a free workshop being held later this month.
The ‘Skills and Employment Workshop’ takes place at the Regional Rural Business Centre (pictured), off Junction 24 of the M5, on Monday, April 20, from 5 pm to 7 pm.
Businesses in West Somerset and Sedgemoor can discuss the upcoming training needs of workforces to help their businesses cope through the recession, and to capitalise on opportunities when the economic climate eventually changes.
The networking event has been jointly organised by West Somerset Council and Sedgemoor District Council to ensure local businesses are equipped for the future.
Councillor Michael Downes, West Somerset’s economic portfolio holder, said: “Fresh information in the face of the changing economic climate is needed so that we can, by working with other organisations, provide the skills and training local businesses want.
“By working with employers and skills providers to identify and address needs, we can help to put in place meaningful, targeted support and training.
“The evening is friendly and informal and all businesses are welcome, from the smallest to the largest local firms.
“Anybody can attend, in fact, who wants their business to grow and is willing to help us plan a better future for the local economy as a whole.”
Places at the workshop can be booked before April 15 by calling West Somerset economic regeneration officer Corinne Matthews on 01984 635287 or emailing
Anybody who cannot attend, but would still like to make the needs of their business known should contact Corinne Matthews to request a questionnaire.