Achieving great things for Kingston

By Ian Thomas | 11 January 2022

Everyone in local government these days knows that working as a team is crucial to success. Collaboration between councillors, partners, community groups and our staff is central to the effective place shaping our residents expect.

As Kingston’s chief executive, I’m proud of all our staff and consider myself fortunate to be surrounded by great people. This was recognised when The MJ Awards named our senior leadership team, team of the year. The accolade is merely a reflection of the people who work alongside us – we see further ‘because we stand on the shoulders of giants’.

Despite being a relatively new team, without years of collective experiences to draw upon, the group’s ability to work together and respect each other’s strengths has been central to why, working closely with elected members, we are now able to achieve great things for Kingston.

The team has learned, innovated and shared so that throughout the pandemic we have provided a truly collaborative approach to supporting residents and businesses – enabling community and economic recovery.

We stepped in to nationally pilot COVID testing when the crisis began, supporting front line workers across south west London and shaping the emerging national model. As well as being consistently ahead of the curve in testing and tracing for residents, our businesses were also among the first in the country to receive grants and we have worked with them to keep the town centres safe and welcoming. Retail footfall in Kingston fell by only 4% year-on-year, leading to us being named as a UK ‘top ten bounceback city’ by Ipsos MORI.

By sharing responsibility, our senior team has shifted its focus outward, adopting a corporate plan with clear objectives and an outcomes-based approach aimed at empowering communities. This united approach meant the emergency response didn’t deter us from going further – continuing to bring major investment and thousands of jobs to Kingston.

The confidence that comes from feeling completely as one in the team has provided the impetus for us to be bold and innovate to achieve amazing results in areas such as delayed transfers of care through robotic process automation (RPA) technology – just one reason why we were named within the top 10% for adult social care performance nationally in the Impower Adult Social Care Index 2020.

Similarly, in children’s services – where it is easy to be risk averse given the nature of the work – we have made crucial innovations with our outstanding Achieving for Children model. A testament to its success came when the Government identified it as an alternative delivery model providing high quality social care services and made us a ‘partner in practice’ to lead on digital initiatives.

Last year we worked with more than 20 councils nationwide to support their children’s services development as part of the Department for Education’s ‘digital maturity’ programme.

Our senior team’s connectivity inevitably creates the efficiency that allows us space to go further. Members of the team have been active nationally and regionally, leading sub-regional economic recovery work on behalf of five boroughs, new integrated health partnership structures and the waste partnership for south London, to name a few.

In 2019, a Local Government Association (LGA) peer challenge concluded the council was internally facing, focusing on organisational redesign and financial challenges.

With the invaluable support of our members, the team has moved to collectively own the budget, strengthening our financial position and changing the narrative from deficit and division to one of transformation and focusing resources on those needing them most. This was affirmed in our follow up review in 2021, where the transformation achieved was described as palpable.

The team has developed the confidence to realise that it must always learn from others. Councils of the future will be leaders of place and community enablers, mature enough to recognise that others are better placed to support some resident needs.

The confidence emanating from this team has allowed Kingston to flourish, developing a ‘nudge theory’ approach that is encouraging the borough’s groups and organisations to widen the network of available support.

A similar philosophy has been encouraged internally by the senior team. Recognising the inherent strengths among council colleagues has allowed us to develop a ‘distributed leadership model’ as we progress our Future Workplace initiative. This recognises that every member of staff should be empowered to deploy their talent and skills to truly innovate and enhance the council’s future development for residents. An excellent example is our libraries, transformed during the pandemic to provide a digital lifeline for many isolated residents.

A great member of staff can make a real difference to people’s live; put them together with other great staff and, as proven in Kingston, and they can quickly transform those lives.

Ian Thomas is chief executive of Kingston RLBC


To enter The MJ Achievement Awards 2022, visit:

Closing date for submissions is 28 January 2022

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