Published: Wednesday, 26th June 2019
One of Norfolk's longest serving Chief Executives, Ray Harding, is set to retire from the Borough Council of King's Lynn & West Norfolk this summer.
Ray started in local government in 1996 in Leominster, moving to East Cambs in 1997 before becoming a corporate director at the borough council in 2003. In March 2005 he became Chief Executive, a role he has held for 14 years.
Ray, 66, said: "After 16 years at the council, I have decided that I've reached an age where it is time to retire and let a younger generation take over. With a new political administration now in place for the next four years, it is time for my successor to work with the executive to deliver their priorities.
"It has not been an easy decision and I will be leaving with mixed feelings as I have enjoyed my time at the council and feel proud of the many changes and improvements we have made to the borough."
Highlights of Ray's term as Chief Executive include:
- Revamping the Tuesday and Saturday Market Place in King’s Lynn
- Helping to establish the University Centre at the College of West Anglia
- Turning the borough council into the biggest housing developer in West Norfolk
- Turning the Nar Ouse Regeneration Area into an attractive housing location, and an Enterprise Zone
- Helping to prevent the building of an incinerator in West Norfolk
- Securing funding for and delivering the successful Townscape Heritage Zone in St James Street, Saturday Market Place and part of King’s Lynn High Street
- Taking a 25% stake in funding the new H & M development in King’s Lynn
- Ensuring the establishment and success of the King’s Lynn Innovation Centre
- Undertaking a succession of regeneration schemes which have transformed parts of Hunstanton
- Supporting over a number of years the Improving Attainment programme with the borough's high schools
- Building new business units in Downham Market
- Coping with a decade of austerity with relatively modest adverse impact on the essential services the council delivers to its residents, businesses and visitors, despite government grant falling from circa £15 million to less than £1 million
- Creating innovative new council owned companies
He continued: "Everything we have achieved as a council has given us a reputation for successful delivery which has helped to ensure that we can continue to attract more external funding. Funding that will enable the council to continue building new homes, develop and improve new business units, acquire homes to rent to local residents and continue to improve and enhance our three towns."
"It has been my privilege to have the best job in Norfolk, working with the best, most supportive and committed colleagues. I couldn't have done any of the above without the efforts of each and every member of staff I have worked with, both past and present. I would also like to thank all the dedicated councillors I have worked with over the years and in particular I'd like to extend my eternal gratitude to John Dobson, former leader of the council, for giving me the opportunity to take on the role of Chief Executive."
Ray has also been a strong advocate of healthy initiatives. A keen runner, swimmer and cyclist, Ray took part in the very first Grand East Anglia Run and only missed one run in the event's history. He has also raised money for The Gambia Education & Training Support charity - mostly from receiving donations for home-grown asparagus from his allotment.
When asked about his retirement plans, Ray said he had recently become a school governor, and that he intended to devote more time to the two charities he is involved with (the other one being Lendwithcare - peer to peer lending to entrepreneurs in a number of third world countries).
He added "I am keen to remain involved with West Norfolk, perhaps by becoming a trustee or non executive of one or two local organisations and am certainly open to offers."
Cllr Brian Long, Leader of the Borough Council of King's Lynn & West Norfolk, said: "It has been an absolute pleasure working with Ray throughout his time here. He has been driven to achieve the goals of the administration and has tackled every challenge with energy and enthusiasm. He is personable and has always made every effort to get to know the councillors and his employees. He will be greatly missed by all."
Cabinet have agreed that Ray's replacement will be recruited from the existing management team, and a restructure of senior management will follow after that. Staff affected are currently being consulted on the proposals.