What Steven asked outgoing Medway Council Chief Executive Neil Davies
"There is no typical day at Medway"
Neil Davies has been the Chief Executive of Medway Council for the past 16 years. The role of Chief Executive is significant and oversees policy and priorities at the council, but the majority of the attention tends to focus on our elected representatives. With Davies standing down from the role this summer, we sat down with him to better understand both the role of Chief Executive and the man who has filled it in Medway for so long.
Where were you born?
I was born in Newcastle-under-Lyme in North Staffordshire. It’s in the county of Staffordshire. It’s a district council and it adjoins Stoke-on-Trent City Council, which is a unitary authority.
What jobs did your parents do growing up?
My mum was a housewife essentially and my dad worked for a civil engineering firm. He was a kind of middle manager working for that firm, which was based in that part of North Staffordshire.
How did you find school and university?
Gosh, I loved it. I love my school experiences. Lots of fond memories. Superb school, superb teachers, and thoroughly enjoyable time in terms of the school I went to and indeed my peer group, my fellow pupils, formed very strong relations and some of those still exist to this day. I kind of went from school to a local FE college in Newcastle-under-Lyme and it was immensely revealing to me, as I moved from traditional subjects at school into business-related subjects at the FE college. So suddenly enlightened by economics and finance and government and politics, it was an immensely enjoyable time and then I went to North Staffordshire University. That was formerly a polytechnic, again business studies, majoring in finance and law. So that phase of my life, as most chapters of my life, have been rich and enjoyable.
What was your first full-time job?
I worked for a family business. That part of North Staffordshire has very traditional industries, so it has coal mining, but also the pottery industry. Of course, Stoke-on-Trent is famous for pottery organisations firms like Royal Doulton and Wedgewood and a range of very well-known pottery firms. My family had a transport business that delivered china clay from Cornwall going into those pottery firms and we at one stage we accounted for about 10% of the road conveyed china clay going into the pottery industry.
Day to day
What is your official occupation?
I am the Chief Executive of Medway Council.
What additional roles paid/unpaid do you currently do?
So that in itself has certain obligations. So clearly there are such responsibilities for the proper organisation and management of the local authority, including head of service function, head of staff employed by Medway Council, and of course, it does have roles and responsibilities pertaining to elections, so returning officer etc.
What does the Chief Executive do on an average day?
I can say with absolute candour, there is no typical day at Medway. If I just reflect on happy more recent phases of our work and that's been absolutely about the budgetary challenges. We set our budgets earlier in February, after a prolonged process of dealing with what are demand-led services, that are rightly statutory services, that exceed our available funding and resources. Members determine the policy and determine the decisions at Medway. we implement them, but understanding member priorities in terms of that spending, then helping members to arrive at a set of budget proposals that are balanced and that fit with our funding envelope. That took a number of months, particularly this time, where there were very significant funding gaps and funding challenges. Some of these figures have been in the public domain. At one stage, that figure was in excess of £20m as a deficit to try and resolve so it's been particularly challenging.
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