New council Chief Executive, Pippa Milne, discusses the journey that brought her to Argyll and Bute, her love for the area and her ambitions for its future, in a question and answer session.
Q: Where were you brought up, and where did you go to school and further education?
I’ve moved between a number of different places over the years but from the age of about 12 I lived in Aberdeen. After school I stayed on to study law at Aberdeen University and after graduating I started work with Fife Regional Council as a trainee trading standards officer. During my 28 year career in local government I’ve work for a number of different councils across the UK.
Q: When did you first move to Argyll and Bute, and what was your role then?
I had visited Argyll and Bute, and loved it, so when a job as Executive Director was advertised in 2013 I jumped at the chance. I was thrilled to be offered the job and moved to Crinan with my husband in spring 2014. I still have to pinch myself every day because I’m doing a job that I love in the place that I dreamed of living in.
Q: What motivates you in your current job?
So many things motivate me:
I live here and I love Argyll and Bute so I want to do the very best for the area.
I meet so many great people who live and work in the area and make the place special. I never cease to be amazed at the new things I discover about the area as I travel to different parts and I want promote them and help make them a success.
And the people that I work with, all the staff and councillors who believe in this area and work hard every day to make a difference - I want to help them to achieve the very best that we can for Argyll and Bute.
Q: Can we expect to see any changes in the way the council is run under your command? What are they?
I’ve been part of the senior leadership team of the council for nearly six years and during that time I’ve helped to shape our approach. We are working in a time of change so you will certainly see an evolution in our strategy as we respond to that. My focus will be on delivering the best outcomes that we can for our communities with the resources that we have available, listening to the needs of those communities as we shape our services for the future. Of course I can’t deliver for the area without the great team of committed people that make up Argyll and Bute Council. I want to make sure that they feel valued and that it’s as easy as it can be for them to do the best job possible for our customers.
Q: What changes do you expect for Argyll and Bute – and other Scottish local authorities – over the next decade?
I’ve worked in local government for 28 years and the rate of change that we see now is unprecedented. I think we will continue to see our funding come under pressure and that will mean that we have to continue to innovate and make greater use of technology. Airbnb and iPad have only been around for about 10 years, so who knows what will be developed in the next decade. We need to be ready for advancements that we can’t yet imagine.
I think we will also see a continue focus on working in partnership and even more co-operative working between public sector bodies. There will be an emphasis on community participation and enabling communities to take action themselves.
Q: What are your feelings on becoming chief executive of Argyll and Bute Council?
I’m passionate about Argyll and Bute and the potential that it offers. Leading this organisation is an exciting opportunity. The best part of the job is that, as a team, we get to make a positive difference for people every day. There are undoubtedly challenges, not least delivering services with fewer and fewer resources but there are also great opportunities like delivering our Rural Growth Deal. I’m looking forward to working with all our partners in the area to make the most of those opportunities.
Q: In the short and long term, what are your ambitions for the area in reaching its full potential?
I would like to see Argyll and Bute thriving and growing with a buoyant economy; opportunities for work and study that make it an attractive place for young people; housing suitable for those who want and need it; and services that meet the needs of our communities.
Things that will help us get there are the delivery of our Rural Growth Deal over the next 10 years; capturing the benefits of the Maritime Change programme at HMNB Clyde for the local area; securing much needed investment through the national review of transport infrastructure projects; closing the attainment gap; and modernising health and social care services for the next decade and beyond.
Q: Where do you think the best assistance will come from in reaching these ambitions?
Delivering for Argyll and Bute means working in partnership. Since moving here I’ve found that pulling together is something we do really well across communities. Working co-operatively with other public sector organisations like the HSCP, Police, Fire, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, private sector businesses, voluntary and community organisations and communities themselves is absolutely critical to our success. Our Community Planning Partnership brings all those bodies together and a range of teams who all believe that we can make a difference.
Q: And what will the biggest challenges be towards that?
Our population is both ageing and declining. This threatens our economic success, makes it difficult to fill jobs and leads to increases in the cost of public services. We need to make the area attractive for young people to ensure that long term sustainability of our area. Solving this issue is complex and is getting harder as the resources we have available to tackle it reduce.
Q: The council's budget-setting process is due to take place next month - is there anything you can say at the moment about what may be ahead in that respect?
The recent general election and the delay to the UK Government’s budget will make this budget setting process unusual. We normally have an indication of our funding for the coming year in December allowing us to plan ahead for the budget being agreed in February. At the moment we don’t yet know when we will find out how much money the council will be allocated. We have been preparing for the budget using assumptions and the council’s Policy and Resources Committee considered the budget outlook and savings proposals in December. Many of these are proposals that we would rather not have to put forward and they will present difficult choices for those involved in agreeing the budget.
Q: What would be your message to the residents of Argyll and Bute as you take up your new post?
Argyll and Bute is a great place to live, work and invest. It offers great potential and a wide range of opportunities for the future. Working together we can make it the very best that it can be.