New Worcestershire County Council chief executive pledges to make a difference (From Worcester News)
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New Worcestershire County Council chief executive pledges to make a difference
THE new chief executive of Worcestershire County Council has got her feet under the table - and says she is determined to make a difference in the top job.
Clare Marchant, 41, admits she is facing the toughest challenge of her career at County Hall after landing the lucrative £151,000 role.
Mrs Marchant, a keen runner, has toiled for a long time to get into the position she officially started eight days ago.
Her CV reads like a catalogue of private-public sector job swaps, with stints at the likes of bread maker Hovis, fashion label Burberry, the NHS, Abbey National and even the old Midlands Electricity Board, with a managerial career spanning 20 years under her belt already.
She takes over at the county council during undoubtedly the biggest upheaval in its history, with around £100 million being cut by 2018, 1,500 jobs due to be slashed and 85 per cent of services being handed to new providers.
But Mrs Marchant, who lives at Corse Lawn near Upton, knows all about life's challenges.
Born on a council estate on Telford, Shropshire in the 1970s, she comes from working class roots - her late father was a postman and mother, a careers advisor.
The family moved to Chester, where she grew up and after going to Hull University, where she got a degree in history and politics, she landed her first job managing as a production manager at Hovis - quite an eye opener.
"I was based at Crawley, in Kent managing 700 men at a factory in what was the biggest bread plant in Europe," she said.
"That certainly hardens you up a bit. It was a heavily unionised environment and like any food production factory, operated 24/7."
At the time she implemented massive changes, skilling up the staff so they could do a variety of work. "You had the production people who did the bread, separate staff who cleaned the machines and then the engineers," she said.
"So I decided to skill them up so they could all do the same things, it meant better terms and conditions and the unions in the end liked it."
Her career as a manager was up and running, and a spell revamping the internal IT systems at Burberry followed before she had her first taste of the public sector examining Governmental tribunal systems.
During the 1990s she worked on a pilot called 'One' in Suffolk, the frontrunner to today's Jobcentre Plus, and went to the electricity board before doing high-level consultancy for Abbey National.
But her biggest break yet came in 2003, when she joined the NHS to launch the controversial 'choose a booking' programme.
The national IT system was based around GPs being able to book patients into any hospital in the country - a massive piece of work.
"It's fair to say it was met with some resistance by GPs at the time, but in the end it was a success," she said.
"That was something we were able to deliver against all the odds."
Mrs Marchant has two stepsons aged 17 and 20, and one son, six-year-old Luc (correct).
She joined the county council in 2010 as 'head of change' at a time when it was trying to shed £60 million over a four-year period, known as Better Outcomes Lean Delivery (BOLD).
After becoming assistant chief executive in 2012, she was confirmed in the top job back in February after beating at least six other final shortlisted candidates to replace Trish Haines.
Her salary is £26,000 below what Mrs Haines was earning, although if she stays until 2017 it will reach £171,000, just £5,000 less.
"It's a huge honour and a massive privilege - I realise this is probably the biggest role I'll ever have in my career," she said.
"Things are difficult but the pluses certainly outweigh the minuses - I want the county council to be right up there in terms of its reputation.
"The big thing, for me, is to make sure we put Worcestershire on the map as nationally recognised place to do business, as a place where the council has got its money in place, has its priorities right and responds to people's concerns."
Mrs Marchant is a keen runner - she's done eight of them in the past and is competing in the Berlin version this September, a full 26 miles of toil.
But County Hall is a challenge she isn't running away from.
"It will be tough, but we've got an opportunity to change local government here," she said.
"I take the view that every pound we spent is a taxpayers' pound. We've got to make it count."
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