Yvonne Rees has been appointed chair of the District Councils’ Network Chief Executive Group.
Yvonne, chief executive of Cherwell District Council since 2017, will take over from Bill Cullen, chief executive of Hinckley & Bosworth Borough Council, on 2 August.
She will hold the role for a two-year term, working alongside the DCN’s Executive Member Board and the Chief Executive Group to co-ordinate and ensure the voice of district, borough and city councils is heard by central government and key delivery partners. She will be assisted by DCN’s dedicated staff, led by director James Hood.
She is currently a vice chair of the DCN chief executive group, alongside Lawrence Conway, chief executive of South Lakeland District Council.
Yvonne said: “It’s an honour to have been appointed chair of the DCN Chief Executive Group at such a critical time for our network and I am proud to follow in the footsteps of Bill who, working in tandem with our political leaders, has successfully increased the sector’s influence within government.
“These last years have been unprecedented, and I thank Bill for his immense contribution and leadership during his time as chair. He is an amazing colleague and it has been a privilege to support him in his role, particularly during the pandemic.
“District councils have proved themselves by delivering so successfully for their communities – including the allocation of £9bn in grants to businesses over the course of Covid and now by offering much-needed support to Ukrainian refugees.
“We are now and will continue to demonstrate how fundamental the activities delivered by district councils are to our residents, businesses and key partners. My ethos is ‘we are stronger together’ and I am keen to work with the wider local government family, civil servants and politicians – both local and national – to unleash the full power of districts in ensuring ambitious targets for levelling up the country are met.
“During this challenging time for the sector, my ask of my CEO colleagues and partners is let’s work together and put the resident at the heart of our discussions. We have a real opportunity to make a difference for our communities, and we can do this together.”
Bill, whose two-year term was extended by a year to ensure consistency during the pandemic, said: “I’m really pleased that I’ll be handing the baton over to Yvonne – I know she’ll do a fantastic job at representing district CEO on the national stage and supporting our executive members.
“I would also take this moment to thank Yvonne, and Lawrence Conway, CEO at South Lakeland DC, for the excellent job they’ve done as Vice Chairs, in supporting me and the entirety of the Chief Executive Group and Executive, in steering DCN through some of the most turbulent years I can remember.
“It’s been an incredible privilege to have to have been working with a great set of chief executives and leaders in representing our members and positioning the DCN as an effective force within the local government family and with Government. I’m incredibly proud of the way we were able to step up to the recent unprecedented challenges of the pandemic, the Ukrainian refugee crisis and if that wasn’t enough now the cost-of-living crisis.
“Our effective and innovative responses to these challenges have shone a light on the importance and undeniable role that districts and our unitary members play in supporting and making our communities great.
“I would also like to give a ‘shout out’ to the incredible work and support of our amazing DCN central team which goes from strength to strength.”
Cllr Sam Chapman-Allen, the DCN’s chairman, said: “I’m very pleased to see Yvonne take on the role of Chair of the Chief Executive Group and I’m looking forward to working with her to develop the DCN strategic framework, and champion the value of all our members.
“I wish to thank Bill for his excellent service in particular during the course of the pandemic, and his role in strengthening the DCN’s influence in recent times as we emphasise the enormous role districts can play in driving levelling up.”
The process to finalise the full membership of the Chief Executives Group is currently taking place. Its membership is weighted to reflect the number of district councils in each English region.
The District Councils’ Network is a cross-party, member-led network of 183 councils, including both district and unitary authorities. It is a special interest group of the Local Government Association.