York council’s new boss named – urged to prioritise local services and transparency

Overseeing the city council – Mary Weastell. Main photograph © Allan Harris on Flickr; inset, Twitter
23 May 2016 @ 7.27 pm
| News, Politics

The next chief executive at City of York Council has been appointed.

Mary Weastell, chief executive at Selby District Council and assistant chief executive at North Yorkshire County Council, will succeed Steve Stewart in the post later this year.

Previously a director at Bradford Council, Ms Weastell was named as York’s new boss on Monday (May 23), and her appointment will be ratified at the Annual Council Meeting on Thursday.

She said she was honoured: “I understand the responsibility and expectations that come with the position: to support the politicians and to work with many important and varied organisations and communities to play my part on taking one of the great cities of the world on its next chapter to realise its full potential and ambitions.”

Ms Weastell added:

I want to focus my efforts through effective partnership working to build on its economic strengths, and create sustainable growth across the city, Yorkshire and beyond.

My focus will also be on exploiting the city’s strengths to drive growth and prosperity, supporting business growth, housing and infrastructure, and building on its unique cultural offer as a world-leading visitor destination.

‘Re-establish council’s reputation’

Steve Galloway, Liberal Democrat leader of the council from 2003 to 2008, wished her well. He said putting right some organisational changes under former Labour leader James Alexander, who served between 2011 to 2014, “would be a good start”.

He wrote on his website: “We hope that she will have more success than some other recent appointees. Being relatively local should help.”

For four months in 2013 Ms Weastell was strategic director at York council, while on secondment from Bradford.

Mr Galloway wrote:

She did work in the York council for four months under the Alexander regime and claims some credit for organisational change (which saw a virtual collapse in electronic customer service interfaces not to mention performance measures which simply disappeared from view for four years). Putting that right would be a good start.

Her most urgent task though will be to re-establish the authority’s reputation as a transparent organisation committed to delivering good quality street level services.

‘Make a real difference’

She was appointed by a cross-party of councillors consisting of the Conservatives’ David Carr, Liberal Democrats’ Keith Aspden and Labour’s Janet Looker.

They said the decision to appoint her was unanimous, adding: “With her impressive track record in local government and in delivering key projects, we’re confident she will make a real and positive difference for the people who live, work and visit York.”

Steve Stewart became acting chief executive after York’s previous chief executive Kersten England resigned to become the head of Bradford City Council last summer.

Ms Weastell’s start date is yet to be confirmed.