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Tributes pour in for outgoing Swindon council chief Rod Bluh
COMMUNITY leaders have paid tribute to the work of Coun Rod Bluh, who has announced he will resign as leader of Swindon Council.
Coun Bluh (Con, Old Town), who will become a public affairs consultant for other councils, said the decision was tough, but he needed more time for his own affairs – and he needed to earn more money for his eventual retirement.
The Conservative group, which holds the majority, will meet this month to choose a new group leader.
This group leader is set to be elected the new council leader when Coun Bluh, 57, formally steps down at the full council meeting on April 11.
Labour group leader Coun Jim Grant said: “While it is well known that Coun Bluh and I have had our differences politically and I have at times questioned his judgment, he deserves credit for the hard work he has put in for Swindon.
“I think one positive legacy he can take away is the links the council has made with other local public sector bodies, like Swindon’s Primary Care Trust, with the aim of developing a more joined-up public service for the people of Swindon.
“And coming out of the turbulent years of a hung-council, there has been more stable leadership in Swindon over recent years.
“Sadly, his legacy of office will also be remembered as a time when Swindon has fallen behind economically compared to its competitor towns and cities.
“After the golden years of the ’80s and ’90s where Swindon was dubbed the fastest growing town in Western Europe, it is now creating fewer jobs than its competitor towns and cities.”
Lib Dem group leader Coun Stan Pajak said he was shocked when he heard the news.
“I never expected it at all. It’s very much a concern because he was such a champion for the One Swindon concept which we all signed up to,” he said.
One Swindon joined together the local services from health, police, council and community work.
“We have to ensure that carries on without him as leader,” Stan said.
“Rod Bluh was always trying to get the best for the town so I think he will be a loss as a leader.”
Heydar Faramarzi, the president of Swindon Chamber of Commerce, said: “It came to me as a surprise and it’s really sad to see Rod going because I have a lot of respect for him and I think he’s the longest-serving leader we’ve had.
“I think he has helped the business community as well and he was always there for us and everyone and did as much as he could.
“In terms of inward investment he did a lot of work, some of it might not have been visible, not directly exposed to everyone, but he worked very hard.”
Justin Tomlinson, the North Swindon MP, said: “Rod will step down with his head held high, having frozen council tax for a third year in a row, while enhancing local services.
“What a stark contrast to the dark days of Labour with failing services and council tax hikes of 42 per cent.”
Robert Buckland, the Swindon South MP, said: “Rod’s seven years of hard work and outstanding service to Swindon will long be remembered.
I wish him well for the future and will continue to enjoy working with him in his capacity as a ward councillor. I look forward to working with his successor in continuing to further the interests of our borough.”
ROD'S HIGHS AND LOWS
- Reinvigorating investment in the town centre after the recession, with the new station forecourt, new register office, and major schemes at the former Swindon College site and Union Square
- Developing the idea of One Swindon, where people in the public, private, voluntary and community sectors work and talk together to deliver services and improve lives
- Gaining recognition from Prime Minister, David Cameron, for Swindon’s innovative LIFE Programme, set up in 2009 to deal with the 370 families in the town classed as the most troubled
- Investing about £400,000 of public money in the troubled firm Digital City UK, which failed to roll out wi-fi internet access across Swindon and also failed to repay the loan.
- Failing to find a future for the crumbling Mechanics’ Institute building, having pledged to solve the issue on taking office