SWINDON Council leader Rod Bluh is to resign from ‘the best job in the world’ in April following a record seven continuous years in charge of the authority.
Coun Bluh (Con, Old Town), who will become a public affairs consultant for other councils, says the decision was tough, but he needed more time for his own affairs – and he needs to earn more money for his eventual retirement.
He says he made the decision after May’s all-out election that it would be his last year, but thought it appropriate to make the announcement after the 2013/14 budget was set last week, with cabinet informed last night.
The Conservative group, which holds the majority, will meet in March to choose a new group leader, who is set to be elected the new council leader when Coun Bluh formally steps down at the full council meeting on April 11.
Coun Bluh said: “I think it’s the best job in the world. If you are passionate about the place in which you live and the people in the place in which you live, how could it not be the best job in the world to be able to influence what goes on?
“It’s a time-limited job, we all know that. I have got to think about my future. I have got 10 years left of working life and I need to make them count, otherwise my retirement will not look very good.”
Coun Bluh, 57, a chartered accountant, moved to Swindon in 2001 and was first elected in Dorcan in 2001, becoming deputy leader in 2005 and leader in 2006 after Coun Mike Bawden stepped down.
He said one of his key achievements included helping to transform the council from poorly rated to a top quartile performing authority, and getting investment in the town back on track following the recession. This included the new Central Library, station forecourt and register office, as well as regeneration at Union Square, the former Swindon College site and the Oasis. He said his main achievement was rebuilding trust with partners in the public, private, voluntary and community sectors, which he claims will be ever more important to help deliver services as spending cuts bite.
He added the council leader’s job was not without its down sides. “The bits I haven’t enjoyed as much are the political side. It’s not what drives me: pointless argument over frankly often manufactured issues doesn’t serve anyone at all.”
Coun Bluh said he would remain a councillor until at least May 2015 and did not expect to remain in the cabinet.
He advised his successor not to spend all their time on internal public sector budgets at the expense of the wider local economy, which he says is important for everyone.
Gavin Jones, the council’s chief executive, said: “It has been a pleasure working with Coun Bluh and I know he will continue to be a fantastic ambassador for the borough for many years to come.”