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Southwark Council Chief Executive to retire

6 September 2021

Eleanor Kelly, Chief Executive of Southwark Council, has announced that she will retire in early 2022, stepping down from the post she has held for a decade.

Eleanor first joined Southwark Council in September 2006 as interim Deputy Chief Executive, was permanently appointed to that role in 2008, and was then promoted to interim Chief Executive in 2011, and permanent CE in 2012.

Her long career in public services began in 1974 when she joined Corby Development Corporation as a trainee clerk – the most junior role in the organisation. She spent 9 years in Corby, moving from the corporation to the district council, before relocating to London to work for Islington Council. She then gained private sector experience working for KPMG before returning to local government in Tower Hamlets as Director of Finance and then Chief Executive.

During her time at Southwark, Eleanor has supported the borough, London and the country through some of their most challenging times, including the 2017 terror attacks in London Bridge and Borough, and the local government response to the Grenfell tragedy. Most recently, Eleanor was seconded to the national COVID-19 vaccination programme, to represent councils, and ensure local knowledge and expertise played a key role in protecting residents from the virus.

Cllr Kieron Williams, Leader of Southwark Council, said: “We will sorely miss Eleanor’s knowledge, verve, warmth and wisdom when she steps down as our Chief Executive, but after fifteen years of unwavering service to the people of Southwark, I understand her wish to take a step back from this demanding role.

“Eleanor has been an outstanding Chief Executive for Southwark, respected by other Chief Executives and by national governments alike. Extremely generous with the time and support she gives to others, it is not surprising that she has regularly been asked to support across London and nationally. Over the last decade, as well as helping others, she has focussed her energy and efforts on helping make Southwark the fantastic place it is today, putting residents at the heart of all we do, improving lives, and delivering excellent services.

“Eleanor has also been a strong advocate for equality in the workplace, and nurtured a culture within our organisation based on strong values of kindness and consideration. I am grateful that Eleanor has agreed to stay on until we find her replacement, ensuring a smooth handover, and the sharing of her vast experience. I want to say a huge thank you to her on behalf of all of Cabinet, and wish her every happiness in her next chapter.”

Eleanor Kelly, Chief Executive, said: “It has been an immense privilege to serve the wonderful people of Southwark over the last 15 years, and it feels fitting that I am ending my career in the borough I love most. Southwark is the most rewarding place to work, with residents who rightly challenge us and keep us on our toes, and staff who always want to go that extra mile to make the borough a better place. Collectively, we have all worked together to find the solutions to the challenges we’ve faced, and share in our successes too.

“I don’t think many people realise quite how interesting, challenging or exciting councils are, and as CE you are ultimately responsible for such an eclectic mix of things. I have been very lucky to work with such ambitious Leaders, too, who always asked and expected me to deliver the very best for our residents. I will always be proud of what we achieved over the last decade: the physical improvements like new council homes, libraries and leisure centres but also the jobs and opportunities we created for local people to thrive. Supporting London through difficult times, particularly the summer of 2017, was one of the biggest challenges I have personally ever faced, but the way colleagues, local partners and residents pulled together in the face of adversity made me really proud, and showed just how resilient local government is.

“I don’t think there is a better, nor more rewarding job, than being Chief Executive of Southwark Council, and although it is the right time for me to leave, for me and my family, Southwark will remain in my heart forever.”

Page last updated: 06 September 2021