Gateshead Council’s chief executive Sheena Ramsey will step down from her role following elections in May.
Tributes have already started to come in from both sides of the Gateshead Civic Centre’s chamber, thanking the chief executive for her more than seven years of service to the local authority and residents. Sheena joined the local authority from Worcester City Council in 2016, where she was been managing director.
Ms Ramsey had also been a chief executive at Knowsley Metropolitan Council and also previously worked at Newcastle City Council. The outgoing chief executive has seen trials and tribulations during her tenure, ranging from £49m of cuts to the council’s budget in the next four years, to the closure of Gateshead Leisure Centre and Birtley Swimming Centre.
The closures sparked protests from residents and two community organisations have since sought to re-open them. Gateshead Active hopes Gateshead Leisure Centre can be brought back within the next three months. The Birtley Community Aquatic Centre organisation remains confident the pool can be revived despite recent delays last December.
In addition, she was at the helm of the authority during the Covid-19 pandemic when councils were under considerable pressure to continue to function. Her leadership during that “most challenging of time” has been praised by the Leader of the Council, coun Martin Gannon.
Leader of Gateshead Council, coun Martin Gannon, said: “I’d like to thank Sheena for her tremendous leadership and support as she has helped the council to change and develop through the most challenging of times, achieving many positive outcomes for the people of Gateshead. Sheena has been vital to the progress of the Gateshead Quays project and the creation of the Riverside Renaissance regeneration plan, played a key role in bringing the management of housing services back into the council and championed our Thrive Agenda.
“The global pandemic placed extraordinary pressure on local services and Sheena guided us throughout that most challenging of times in ways that we all appreciated. Sheena has always stressed the importance of us working in partnership with the wider community – and that commitment came to the fore during the pandemic.
“Sheena was instrumental in ensuring we worked in partnership with the community and voluntary sector, who played an incredible role in ensuring people got the necessary support, when and where they needed it. At a time when many local authorities across the country are under severe financial pressure, Sheena leaves us with a clear path to budget sustainability with the adoption of a challenging but deliverable medium-term financial strategy, a range of radical reviews and a key role in the new North East Mayoral Combined Authority.
“Local Government has gone through the most difficult time in the last decade, but we are finally being recognised for the role we play in our local community. I’d like to thank Sheena for the part she has played in making all this happen”.
Sheena Ramsey said: “I’m very proud of all that we have achieved in Gateshead and the North East over the last seven years and remain confident that we have created a strong platform on which to build for the future. Progress has only been possible because of the hard work and dedication of everyone involved – councillors, council colleagues, regional and national partners, business leaders and the wider community.
“I’d like to thank them all for their support and wish them every future success. This has been my dream job, bringing me home to contribute to the future of a region I care so much about and enabling me to spend some important years with my family and friends.
“Whilst this is the right time for me personally and for Gateshead to make this transition, I’m still passionate about helping the North East achieve a brighter future and look forward to continuing to play my part in achieving that”.
Gateshead Council’s Liberal Democrat opposition leader, coun Ron Beadle said: “The Liberal Democrat group on Gateshead Council wishes Sheena all the best for the future and for the work she has put in over the last seven years as chief executive. Sheena was the driving force for the Thrive Agenda which aims to ensure no one is left behind in Gateshead and that prosperity boosts all our communities.”