Brent Council’s long-serving Chief Executive Carolyn Downs has announced that she is to retire in the spring.
After a career in local and central government that has spanned more than four decades, concluding with more than seven years as Chief Executive of Brent Council, Carolyn will step down at the end of April 2023.
Carolyn’s career in local government began in 1982 in Haringey’s library service. Following 8 years in Haringey, Carolyn moved on to Stevenage and then Calderdale councils before, in 2003, becoming the first female Chief Executive at Shropshire County Council where she lead the Council to become one of the first ever County unitary authorities. After that, she became deputy permanent Secretary and Director General of Corporate Performance at the Ministry of Justice. Carolyn then became Chief Executive of The Legal Services Commission and subsequently Chief Executive of The Local Government Association for four years.
Having established herself as one of the most respected leaders in local government, the self-confessed ‘public sector devotee’ joined Brent as Chief Executive in June 2015.
During her time at the helm of London’s fifth largest borough and one of the most diverse boroughs in Britain, Brent established itself as a pioneering council that ‘set trends and didn’t follow them’. During her tenure, the supply of affordable housing increased significantly, with Brent delivering more housing completions last year than any borough in the history of the Greater London Authority. The number of people in temporary accommodation has fallen while Brent achieved its best ever Ofsted rating for the quality of its children’s services.
Brent was named London Borough of Culture 2020 by the Mayor of London and later that year was crowned the LGC’s ‘Council of the Year’ with the judges commenting: “Brent has embraced its communities in a celebration of diversity, lifting up the whole borough. The council demonstrates how to convene place and communities – an antidote to today’s fractured society. It impressed on multiple fronts, showing leadership in the round.”
The council was also often seen as leading the way during local government’s response to the COVID pandemic with Brent breaking new ground on the procurement of PPE, hyper local testing and its approach to engaging with local communities.