Chief attracted by the big challenges

A new senior officer at North Tyneside Council believes the future is bright for the borough despite some big challenges ahead.

Patrick Melia is only into his second week as the authority’s chief executive but has already seen enough to convince him he made the right decision moving across from neighbouring South Tyneside Council.

Mr Melia, a former corporate director at South Tyneside, says there is a good baseline which to work from and a lot of positives.

In an interview with the News Guardian, he set out his aims for the authority and is keen to work with businesses, partners, councillors and residents.

He said: “I sense I’m coming in with a very good baseline and very aware that there are some big things to do.

“When I looked at the job I was really attracted by the fact it feels as if the council has a low profile regionally. It does a lot of good things really well but recognises there are some big challenges ahead.

“It’s an ambitious borough that wants to deliver real change for it’s residents. I’m attracted to the challenge.

“We’ve got a team willing to make big decisions and tackle the big issues.”

One of the biggest challenges facing the council is finding £20m savings in the 2014-15 budget then £64m after that.

Mr Melia, a qualified accountant, said: “It is a big challenge that will require a big reorganisation of the council around our priorities and what the residents have said to us.

“We need to be more integrated with the services we provide.

“As money gets smaller, we need to be smarter to deliver services and integrate our services, such as with the healthcare foundation trust.”

Mr Melia, who has also worked for Northumbria Probation Service and Durham Police, said he was keen to move forward regeneration schemes in the borough.

“We hope to hear in the near future from the Heritage Lottery Fund about the Spanish City Dome,” he said.

“I’m very clear that we will bring forward the work, the Dome will have a future and will not be a derelict building.

“We want to continue around the other town centres of Wallsend and North Shields, how we continue to improve services and how we make sure it has a sustainable life.”

He was also full of praise for the enterprise zone status secured for the former Swan Hunter site, as well as the number of business parks in the borough, and said it was vital that youngsters were provided the right skills to help secure jobs in the future.

Mr Melia has also spent time driving and walking around North Tyneside to see first hand some of the issues, and will soon be joining ward councillors in their communities to hear from residents first hand about their dealings with the council.

“One thing I’m hearing is around customer focus, making sure that as an organisation in terms of how we deal with the public we treat them with respect and promptly with requests. I’m working with the team on that.”

Mr Melia admits that for the borough to progress, they need to build up to 12,000 new homes over the next ten years.

And he also feels following the opening of the Kings Priory School that the council needs to reorganise its school provision.

“If we maintain links with the schools and headteachers we can work together to deliver and reorganise the education landscape for the borough that will set us up to deliver great education for the future of our children,” he said.