Director of Place: Sharkey gets his teeth into new council job

A new council chief has warned of a tough year ahead for local government as severe spending cuts are set to hit where it hurts.

Speaking at the end of his first month in the job, Duncan Sharkey has opened up about his plans to combat the cuts and give Milton Keynes a fantastic future.

Duncan Sharkey, Director of Place at MK Council PNL-150107-140551001

Duncan Sharkey, Director of Place at MK Council PNL-150107-140551001

But his title of Director of Place was met with a frosty reception from the public, who questioned his role and salary of up to £140,000.

“Councils are a lot smaller than they used to be,” says Duncan.

“We now only have four people including the chief executive on our senior management tier. We had to aggregate up.

“So my role is all about the physical things that make the place work. It’s about making sure the place supports everyone who lives here to suceed.”

Duncan Sharkey, Director of Place at MK Council

Duncan Sharkey, Director of Place at MK Council

However, this month the government is expected to say the council will have to tighten its purse strings – on top of the £70million savings by 2020 – making for a rocky road ahead.

Mr Sharkey said: “Milton Keynes has already lost a large amount from its budget and the world has not ended.

“But it is going to be a very tough year ahead for local government as we expect further bad news for our budget.

“The good news is we have already made a large amount of savings and we haven’t damaged services that people receive.”

It’s now, according to Mr Sharkey, time for the public to step up to the plate and help out.

He said: “People have to start expecting the council to do less for them.

“We need people to take some more responsibility in some areas of their own lives.

“That is going to be difficult because they are used to what we do now.

“But it is still an exciting challenge to get that right and engage with people and focus on what the customer really needs.”

But it’s not all doom and gloom, says Mr Sharkey, who says the council knows what it is doing when it comes to cutting funds, but continuing to provide high quality services.

He said: “The council has already had to deal with a fairly horrible financial decision and it’s dealt with it pretty well so we know what we are doing.

“It will be difficult. I don’t want to lie to people and say it will be easy.

“There are some things that people valued we can’t do any more, or in the same way, but we have to have an honest conversation and ask people how they can help us.

“In a year’s time I want to be able to say we are delivering within the budget given to us and still able to provide servcies that help people.

“We are working in partnership with various organisations to make sure Milton Keynes is still brilliant next year, in ten years and 50 years after that.”