Kirklees Council’s top officer Jacqui Gedman who steered the district through the pandemic and helped turnaround the failing Children’s Services department has announced her retirement.

Ms Gedman will leave her role as the council’s £185,000-a-year chief executive later in the year. She has had a 22-year career at Kirklees, the last six in the top job. 

Starting her career at Kirklees as a senior engineer in 2001, Ms Gedman has held several posts at the council, including director of economy, environment and skills, before being appointed chief executive in 2017.

In her time in the top job, Ms Gedman has steered the council through the pandemic as well as turning round a Children’s Service department that had been judged to be failing in 2016.

In recent years, she has overseen the council’s plans for a major investment programme for the borough’s economic infrastructure with ambitious projects in the offing for Huddersfield town centre, Dewsbury and urban centres across Kirklees.

A meeting of the council’s Personnel Committee on March 30 will formally initiate the search for a successor with a new chief executive expected to be in place by the end of the year.

As one of the largest local authorities in the country, the role is said to be one of the most sought-after jobs in English local government. In 2022 the chief executive’s salary was £185,162, according to figures published by Kirklees Council.

Huddersfield Town Hall

Ms Gedman said: “It’s been the privilege of a lifetime to serve Kirklees for so long. At times, it’s felt like the most difficult job in the world. But there hasn’t been a single second when it’s been anything less than an honour.

“I’ve worked with some of the finest public servants you could ever hope to meet. And I’ve met the most extraordinary and impressive people who make Kirklees such an incredible place.

“Now feels like the right time for me to pass on the baton. The current senior leadership team is strong and I have absolutely no doubt that they have what it takes to work together and continue to serve Kirklees residents with distinction.

“As we move on from the pandemic, it’s become clear to me that there are new challenges for the council in the coming years. It’s time for a fresh perspective and a new chief executive who can make the most of the many opportunities that lie in store for Kirklees.

“We are moving into delivery mode for some hugely ambitious regeneration schemes across Kirklees. It will take a different kind of ambition and skill to bring those plans from the drawing board and into reality.

“Over the last few years, our dedicated team has taken Children’s Services from the brink of failure to the edge of excellence. It will be up to new leadership to complete that journey.

“Our work with children and young people is our most important responsibility and the new chief executive will start from a position of strength.

“Over the past couple of years, our partnerships with local public, private and voluntary sector organisations have transformed.

“That transformation means opportunities for the council: to join up health and care services, to work with our expanding university and build on the firm foundations we’ve built with a huge range of people and organisations who make a positive contribution to society in Kirklees.

“In a difficult financial and economic climate, those relationships need to develop further if we are to give residents and businesses the support they need to thrive.

“The pandemic has changed the way our people work too. There is a major challenge to lead a hybrid workforce while staying true to our values to bring services and decisions closer to people in their communities.

“We stuck together as a team during the pandemic but the future offers new leadership challenges for building a cohesive organisation that’s set up to serve residents and businesses in the most effective ways possible.

“These are all major opportunities for a new chief executive to grasp. It will be heart wrenching to move on but I feel hugely optimistic for the future of Kirklees.

“I want to spend the next few months thanking all those people who make such a difference to me over the years and who do such brilliant work for local people every day. They don’t always get the recognition they deserve but I’ve learned so much from so many people within the council and beyond.”

Clr Shabir Pandor

Council leader Clr Shabir Pandor said tribute and said: “Jacqui Gedman is one of the finest public servants in the country. It has been our great fortune to have her serve the council and the people of Kirklees for so long.

“Jacqui has led this council with distinction through some of our greatest challenges. She was instrumental in turning round our services to children.

“She has put in place the foundations of our economic transformation. And she brought the whole workforce together to face up to the extraordinary challenge of the pandemic.

“Throughout, she has shown immense leadership qualities, innovative thinking and a dedication to people and communities across Kirklees.

“I have trusted Jacqui’s judgement at all times and have seen her bring colleagues and councillors together to serve the interests of the people who live, work and visit Kirklees.

“I know councillors from all parties will share my view that we will be hugely sorry to see Jacqui leave the council. But I also know that they will agree with me when I wish her the very best for her retirement and recognise her huge and positive contribution to public life in Kirklees.

“Anyone who knows Jacqui will understand that she will remain utterly dedicated to the council until her successor is in place later this year.”