New St Helens Council chief executive wants to 'make a real difference in the borough'

Kath ODwye
Kath ODwye

Kath O’Dwyer has been officially appointed as the new chief executive of St Helens Council after the decision was rubber stamped by councillors.

An extraordinary council meeting was held at the town hall on Monday night to ratify the appointment of Ms O’Dwyer, who is the acting chief executive of Cheshire East Council.

The appointment is the first of a number of changes to the senior management team, as the council looks to modernise.

St Helens Council leader David Baines said the appointment was “significant” for the council and for the borough.

He said the appointment, coupled with senior management structure, represent a “fresh start” for the council.

Coun Baines said: “Kath O’Dwyer has a track record of delivery and service improvement, which is second to none in local government.

“There isn’t a council in the country that wouldn’t want her as chief executive.

“And to top it all off she’s a resident in our great borough and she is St Helens through and through.

“Kath is the perfect candidate to drive our improvement journey in children’s services and to lead the other changes our council needs to deliver physical regeneration of town and district centres, to deliver the One Council agenda, transforming the way we work and to change our culture as an organisation, making sure we get the most out of our fantastic staff and become an enabler, not a blocker for the many amazing individuals and organisations in our borough who are keen to be a part in delivering change and getting things done.”

St Helens Council began its search for a permanent chief executive in October after it parted ways with Mike Palin.

Following his shock departure, Harry Catherall agreed to come out of retirement to take the reins as interim chief executive.

Ms O’Dwyer will take over from Mr Catherall in early spring.

The former social worker will join St Helens Council after holding the position of acting chief executive at Cheshire East Council since 2017.

Prior to that she was Ofsted’s national director for social care and has previously worked for several North West authorities including Warrington, Halton, Knowsley, Rochdale and St Helens borough councils.

Ms O’Dwyer was one of several candidates to be interviewed by St Helens Council’s appointments committee last week.

Following the interviews, the committee recommended Ms O’Dwyer for the job, which will pay up to £160,000.

The appointments committee’s recommendation was unanimously approved by the council.

On accepting her new appointment, Ms O’Dwyer said: “I am delighted to have been appointed to the role of chief executive at St Helens Council.

“This is a really exciting opportunity to make a real difference in the borough that I am proud to call my home.

“I have lived in St Helens for most of my life, it is where I have grown up, raised my own family and indeed where I worked in my early local government career.”

“I am looking forward to working with the elected members, staff and partners in leading the council on its improvement journey and realising its ambitions for the residents and communities of the borough.”