Leading from the front

Leading from the front

Simon Warren is the Chief Executive of Wolverhampton City Council. He joined Wolverhampton from Rugby Borough Council where he was Chief Executive from 2006 to 2010.

Prior to working in local government he had an extensive career in the armed forces – he was a pilot and senior officer in the Royal Air Force, and held the post of Head of Strategic Management for NATO in America before joining local government.

The University and Council have a close relationship, working together on projects to boost trade, industry and education links for the benefit of the city.

What do you think are Wolverhampton's strengths as a city?

I think the city has two main strengths – its geography and the people who live in it. The point about geography is that Wolverhampton is in a superb position; we are in a confluence of motorways, have high speed rail and an international airport close by so you can easily get to anywhere in the country, the continent and the world. As a place to do business, it is excellent and as a place to live it has access to some of the best countryside England has to offer, there are good and improving schools, we have major cultural facilities and of course there is the University. So our city is a great place to live, work and do business.

The people here are extremely resilient. We have 1,000 years of manufacturing history behind us and now we have some very hightech industry here, such as Jaguar Land Rover and several important aerospace industries. The future for Wolverhampton does look bright.

What are your hopes and plans for the city in 2012?

I want to see work start on the Jaguar Land Rover site which is so important to Wolverhampton’s future. In terms of regeneration, I am really looking forward to seeing the three supermarkets coming out of the ground and the continued redevelopment of the football stadium. It is so important for people to see Wolverhampton as being on the move. I’m also looking forward to hosting the Olympic torch before the London Games next summer.

Your background is in the armed forces, having worked for the RAF and NATO, which are obviously very different environments to local government. What skills do you find you draw on now from your time in the armed forces?

The armed forces are all about people - working with people and getting the best out of them. It is also about leadership and leadership in different environments. Those are the two things that I use here.

What do you enjoy most, or find most rewarding, about your role?

I relish the privilege of being able to positively affect people’s lives day in, day out.

The Council and University work together on various projects, for example an agreement formalising trade and investment links between the city and India. What do you think are the main benefits of such partnership working and how would you like to see this developed further in the future?

The relationship between the Council and the University is very close and one that we hold very dear. The key point for us at the moment is that we can align the needs of business and industry that is coming into Wolverhampton with the skills that our people have. We need a close working relationship with the University, the College and the schools. I’m glad to see that this partnership is one that all the elements are nurturing.

I share the same view as the new Vice-Chancellor Geoff Layer that the University is a jewel in Wolverhampton’s crown and is a key part of the fabric of the city and its future.

What advice would you offer to someone hoping to follow in your footsteps?

Whatever you do, it is the people that are the most important thing. Treat them with respect and dignity and listen to what they have to say because sure as anything, they will know more than you! People will always surprise you with what they are able to do.

Young people often receive a bad press, but the Council does a lot of important work with young people in Wolverhampton. What are your experiences of young people you have encountered in the city?

There are some fantastic young people in this city. We have children who act as carers for their parents and siblings as well as outstanding sports stars, I think we have to celebrate that. It is very easy to do young people down but the majority of them will go on to do fantastic things when they grow up.

Who do you admire?

Two people. The first is Nelson Mandela. It is a matter of dignity. He had been through so much in prison and he later led South Africa with dignity for all. And then Winston Churchill - I admire his doggedness and determination to succeed.