‘A safe pair of hands’ – Arun councillors bid farewell to chief executive

Last night’s full Arun District Council meeting was Nigel Lynn’s last in his role as chief executive.

Nigel Lynn is set to leave Arun District Council after more than ten years as its chief executive
Nigel Lynn is set to leave Arun District Council after more than ten years as its chief executive

In a speech,chairman Jim Brooks said: “Nigel will have been at Arun over ten years before he departs.

“He has achieved so much in his time at Arun, including the new Littlehampton Wave, regeneration projects, improving waste services and being the lead West Sussex chief executive on many groups including adults safeguarding, health and wellbeing, and Experience West Sussex to name just a few.

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“His influence within the district councils network has helped Arun and other West Sussex authorities to gain knowledge and be influential in central government.

“Nigel has worked hard to achieve cohesion and unity on key issues across all political parties and has been key in improving relationships with town and parish councils and partners across the district.

“I would like to thank Nigel on behalf of Arun District Council, our partners, town and parish councils and our customers for his dedication and service over the last ten years.”

Councillors from all parties also wished Mr Lynn well before he leaves the council in October.

Council leader Shaun Gunner (Con, Rustington East) said: “Our time together as leader and chief executive hasn’t been hugely long but actually, for you, your time at Arun has been.

“I want to thank you for all the work you have done for this authority over the last ten years.

“You can genuinely be unquestionably proud that the council is now more efficient than it was when you arrived.

“That’s due to your determination to deliver for both the council and the residents of the district.

“If I were you, leaving here, I would be very sad about leaving us and all the fun we have at our full council meetings but you can clearly be proud that you have steered us through some very tough challenges; the last 18 months being a clear example of that.”

Mr Gunner added that Mr Lynn had been a ‘very safe pair of hands’ and that his impact on the council is ‘clear for all to see’.

Leader of the opposition James Walsh (LDem, Beach) said he ‘hadn’t always agreed’ with the chief executive but said ‘robust and fruitful’ discussions had taken place nonetheless.

He said: “I have known him as leader of the opposition, as a backbencher, as leader of the council, and again as opposition leader.

“So I have seen Nigel under fire, leading from the front and giving mostly good advice.

“We haven’t agreed on everything at all times but we have always had robust and fruitful discussions which have led to satisfactory outcomes.

“The pandemic was an enormous test not just for the chief executive, but for the councillors and all officers and indeed continues to be so – I hope we can continue to get through it.

“Thank you for being so steadfast in achieving all the goals that you set yourself here.”

Leader of the Independent group Tony Dixon (Aldwick East) commended Mr Lynn for his achievements in light of austerity.

He said: “Each chief executive must work with the hand the are dealt by national government.

“In this case, a government that hesitates to commit the funding necessary to provide decent public services in the 21st century.

“The council has halved in size from around 750 employees to just over 300 employees in the recent austerity-driven years and this is not your fault, Nigel.

“In spite of this, under your leadership, the council has continued to provide the rest of this district with effective and efficient public services and you deserve much credit for this.”

He said running services with ‘ever reducing funding’ was ‘not easy’ and commended the chief executive for his ‘calm leadership in unprecedented times’.

He added: “Our lives don’t get better by chance, they get better by change.

“As William Shakespeare said: ‘I can no other answer make but thanks, thanks and ever thanks.'”

Arun Independent Group leader Steve Goodheart thanked Mr Lynn on behalf of his fellow Arun Independents.

Isabel Thurston thanked Mr Lynn for being ‘so welcoming’ towards Green councillors and praised him for his ‘patience and good sense’.

She said: “It has been a difficult time and you’ve been like a steady captain at the ship.

“Best of luck with your move and please keep the Green agenda to the fore.”

Mr Lynn said: “I am humbled by those words that have come from the group leaders and members.

“I think it’s fair to say that Arun took a chance on me as chief executive in that I had been a deputy before, but hadn’t been running things directly.

“I think that’s always a risk and therefore I have grown into the job, I’ve grown with that experience whilst other members have grown with me. We have achieved a great deal in the last ten years.

“If ever there was a time to raise your game as a council it had to be during the coronavirus pandemic and I think I have no doubt at all that the council as a whole did that.

“Within days, all of our staff were working from home and all our services have continued to be delivered right the way through the last 18 months.

“We’ve had an amazing response from our staff in relation to the community hubs, the prescriptions we collected, and shopping we did for people as well as taking all the homeless off the streets at that time.

“Any chief executive is only ever as good as the staff that work for them and I am immensely grateful to the staff who have done a tremendous amount.

“We need to thank them for all their support and work they have done over the last ten years, but particularly over the last 18 months and I’m really grateful for the support I’ve had from the staff and the commitment they’ve given to this council.”

Later on in the meeting, a panel was approved to appoint Mr Lynn’s replacement.

Councillors Gunner, Jacky Pendleton (Con, Middleton-on-Sea), James Walsh (LDem, Beach), Matt Stanley (LDem, Marine) and Hugh Coster (Ind, Aldwick East) will make up the ‘recruitment and selection panel’.

Nigel Lynn will join West Berkshire Council as chief executive once he leaves his role at Arun.