Introducing Piali DasGupta
When I told my friends and colleagues in London that I would be moving up here, I braced myself for a “why would you leave the centre of the universe?” sort of reaction. What I discovered instead is that an awful lot of people I know have a personal connection to Brum – and still feel very connected to this city. I was told over and over again how special this place is and how much I will love living here.
I’ve now been here a month and they were right. That’s very much down to how gracious and kind everyone has been since I arrived. So many people have gone out of their way to make me feel welcome and point me to the best coffee shops, galleries, theatres, parks, etc. That speaks volumes about the spirit of this city. So before I go on, let me say a heartfelt thank you…and please keep the tips coming!
I’m starting to get out and about, but it will take me a bit of time to get around to meeting colleagues in all the different teams all across the city. To give you a better sense of who I am, here are a few key facts over and above what is in my bio:
- I’m a true believer in local government. I moved to the UK from Canada specifically to work for local government because of a lot of the ground-breaking work happening across English cities in tackling homelessness, poverty and deprivation.
- I am probably the only Canadian you will ever meet who is, at best, ambivalent about Canada. By contrast, I am absolutely besotted with the UK.
- I speak fluent French but feel like my fluency is eroding with every passing day. If any of you might like to meet for an occasional tête-à-tête en français or even start a French conversational group, I’d be up for that.
- I am a shameless and obsessive fan of Star Wars and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Some of you are no doubt now wondering what kind of person has been brought on board as Assistant Chief Executive. Possibly more of you are wondering what exactly an Assistant Chief Executive does. There is no pithy answer to that question. In the simplest of terms, my role is to help the Chief Executive oversee all aspects of council business. I am utterly in awe of Mark’s visibility and reach, but he can’t be everywhere at once. As clichéd as it might sound, everything we do as a council matters. My role is largely about helping to make sure that everything we do as a council fits together to have a positive impact on the lives of our residents and the wider city.
That is not my job alone, of course. Our whole Corporate Leadership Team (CLT) takes this responsibility to heart. But because I don’t have responsibility for a specific service area as well, I bring some extra capacity to focus on making the whole greater than the sum of its parts.
Some of the highlights of my first month here include:
- The discussion at the Future Think Talk in January. Dominic Campbell from Future Gov spoke with his usual aplomb about innovation in public services, but what really blew me away was the passion and vision that colleagues in the room demonstrated.
- Speaking at the Tomorrow’s Talent event aimed at encouraging young people to consider a career in local government. Students from local schools had an opportunity to take part in mock job interviews and team working exercises. I was delighted to learn that at least one student secured an apprenticeship with an external provider very soon after the event.
- My first West Midlands Combined Authority meeting. I’ve spent the last seven years campaigning for devolution to local government and the last two advising councils on how to form combined authorities. To now have a chance to play a part in all of that on the ground is a dream come true for me.
- Attending the People Directorate’s budget consultation in Harborne. I was really struck by how many residents are coming to terms with the council’s new financial reality and the scope there is to engage them more on the redesign of services.
- Discussions with external partners who tell me how much they value the role the council plays within the city and how keen they are to work with us.
- The invaluable support I have received from the team back at “home base” in the Council House, including Dawn Wale, Helen Nicholas, Jagtar Mankoo, Nicola Ellis, Mireia Mangual and Cat Orchard. I’m not sure that I have completely found my feet yet, but I’m getting there much more quickly than I otherwise would thanks to their efforts.
From what I’ve seen so far, there is leadership and professionalism at every level in this organisation that does this city credit. I feel incredibly privileged to be working with you and have great faith in our future.