Economic recovery is top priority for new Shropshire Council chief executiveby Keri Trigg
Kickstarting the county’s economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic and supporting residents through the uncertain times ahead have been cited as the top priorities of Shropshire Council’s incoming chief executive.
Andy Begley is set to take up the top job at the authority provided he gets approval from councillors at a meeting on September 24.
Mr Begley, formerly the council’s executive director of adult social care, public health and housing, takes over from Clive Wright who left the council in February year.
He said his time as joint acting interim chief executive since Mr Wright’s departure - a role he has shared with director of children’s services Karen Bradshaw - had been quite the baptism of fire.
The pair took up their temporary roles in the midst of the flooding chaos and then found themselves leading the council through a pandemic.
Mr Begley said: “I think the last six months have been the most intense assessment centre.
“I took over during the floods, then we had the pandemic.
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“It’s prepared me well. I have just been amazed at how the organisation has responded to unprecedented demand on the public sector and understand the capabilities of the organisation and the opportunities that lie ahead.
“We are still aware that we are not through the pandemic by any stretch and have what’s likely to be a particularly challenging winter to come.
“But at least we understand how, together with the community and voluntary sector partners, we can all work together for the benefit of Shropshire.”
Mr Begley said nurturing the county’s economy back to health following a surge in unemployment, business closures and Covid-19 restrictions was of paramount importance.
He said: “One of the main challenges is going to be to support and stimulate the economy, support local businesses and understand the legacy impacts of Covid-19 on individuals and their families.
“A lot of people have become unemployed as a result of the pandemic so for me it’s about how we can re-energise the economy so Shropshire can remain the beautiful, vibrant, healthy and welcoming place that it is.”
Mr Begley said the pandemic had propelled the council into a new era, advancing its “digital agenda” by eight to 10 years in the space of just a few months and leading to new ways of working being explored across the council’s services.
He said: “Every business, every organisation has had to work differently, to think differently.
“We have had to think about how people interact with us and what services we provide, or don’t provide, going forwards.
“Throughout it’s about creating a feeling of stability.
“All of our employees have been fantastic during the pandemic and recognising that we need to make sure their voice is heard and we understand the stress this puts on everybody.
“We employ a huge number of people at the council and the impacts of Covid-19 will be felt right across the board, no matter what sector or service area – we see that through global and national commerce and trade – so everything will change as a result of this.
“In adult social care it’s created a whole set of challenges in supporting the most vulnerable in society. We are seeing a change in the way people feel safe to be supported, whether in residential or domiciliary care.
“It’s a time of constant change but we are working closely with provider organisations and we have maintained good relationships with them.
“It’s about trying to make sure those essential services are in place.
“What people didn’t see behind the scenes was how we redeployed the services to meet demands we have never encountered before – delivering food parcels and the shielding scheme.
“We have been relying on partnerships with voluntary organisations, and working at a local level was really important throughout this period.
“Now we need to look at how we build on that.”