Cumbria appoints chief executive

John Metcalfe will be joining the Cumbria County Council as chief executive, leaving a similar post at the Isle of Wight.

Metcalfe has more than 35 years of experience in local government. Prior to being chief executive of Isle of Wight Council, he was the council’s deputy managing director. Before that, he was the deputy director of economy tourism and leisure, a post he held for more than 17 years.

Metcalfe said he was “very excited” to join the Cumbria County Council, adding that he lived in the area when he was younger.

“I am looking forward to building on the strong legacy of the ‘one team’ approach that clearly exists at Cumbria County Council,” Metcalfe said. “A clear priority for me will be about showing strong and visible leadership and working with the council’s experienced leadership team.

“Our focus over the coming months will be to work alongside staff and hear their ideas and concerns and respond to them. I aim to be transparent and I will work hard to be visible and accessible to all and do the very best I can for the people of Cumbria.”

Metcalfe’s appointment was met with approval from the leaders of the Labour, Liberal Democrat and Conservative groups in the council.

Cumbria County Council leader Cllr Stewart Young, the leader of the Labour Group, expressed his support for Metcalfe’s appointment, saying Metcalfe “brings with him a range of skills that make him ideal for Cumbria, especially at this moment in time”.

Cllr Peter Thornton, deputy leader and leader of the Liberal Democrats, said: “As the successful applicant, John brings to Cumbria extensive and relevant experience. He clearly shares our commitment to delivering quality public services to the people of Cumbria. This is a key role for Cumbria and I am confident that this is the right appointment for Cumbria County Council.”

Cllr Hilary Carrick, leader of the Conservatives, said she was also “delighted” with Metcalfe’s hire.

“Having had the pleasure of meeting John I can confirm that he is clearly a skilled and experienced local government officer who shares our high aspirations for Cumbria,” she said. “He is also very grounded and I feel that he will bring with him all of the skills we need now and for the future.”

Metcalfe replaces interim chief executive John Readman, who took the role in December last year after the former chief executive, Gill Steward, resigned. Steward had only been within the role for four months.

Metcalfe’s own role as chief executive may be short-lived – Cumbria County Council is set to be abolished in April 2023 after the government decided to split the region into two unitary authorities: Cumberland and Furness.

Cumberland Council would hold Allerdale, Carlisle, and Copeland areas. Furness Council would include Barrow, Eden and South Lakeland.

Cumbria County Council has launched a judicial review against the proposed split.

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