Lewisham Council - New chief executive for Lewisham Council

New chief executive for Lewisham Council

Published on 01 March 2018

Ian Thomas has been recommended as our new chief executive.

The recommendation was made following a rigorous selection process by an appointments panel consisting of Sir Steve Bullock, Mayor of Lewisham and a cross-party group of eight councillors. The recommendation will go to Full Council on 14 March 2018.

Organisations from across the Lewisham borough also took part in the selection process, including:

  • Lewisham Hospital
  • the police
  • Goldsmiths, University of London
  • Phoenix Community Housing
  • SE London Chamber of Commerce.

Ian’s work at Rotherham Council

Ian is currently the Strategic Director for Children and Young People at Rotherham Council. Since becoming the statutory children’s officer for Rotherham in January 2015, he has been busy responding to the reports of Professor Jay, Louise Casey CB and Ofsted, in what has been the most challenging time for any council.

Outstanding children’s services

Under Ian’s leadership, children’s services in Rotherham have been transformed, improving from a rating of ‘inadequate’ to ‘good with outstanding features’ within three years. Ofsted report that there is now ‘a positive organisational culture’ in Rotherham. At the same time, education standards have improved and, as lead commissioner for victims and survivors of child sexual exploitation (CSE), Ian mobilised a response with partners that resulted in the conviction of 30 sex offenders, who are now serving around 400 years in jail between them.

A range of community-based services are now in place to support around 1,100 survivors of CSE. Ian was formerly Deputy Chief Executive and Strategic Director for Children and Younger Adults at Derbyshire County Council and Assistant Director (Social Care and Housing Strategy) at Trafford MBC.

Ian’s move to Lewisham

Sir Steve said, ‘I am delighted that Ian Thomas has been recommended to be our new Chief Executive. Ian is an incredibly impressive and talented leader and he will bring a wealth of experience from his senior roles with Rotherham, Derbyshire and Trafford councils.

‘Ian is a highly regarded local government leader who has delivered big improvements to public services. His skills, experience and knowledge made him an outstanding candidate and I am confident he will work alongside Lewisham’s communities to make our borough the best place in London to live, work and learn.

Ian said, ‘I feel both humbled and privileged to be offered the role of Chief Executive of Lewisham Council. This is an exciting time for the borough, which has been well led by Dr Barry Quirk and Sir Steve Bullock over many years. I look forward to working with the new mayor, ward councillors, staff, partners and residents, to build on what has been achieved in the borough, address the challenges ahead, as well as seize the opportunities to improve the lives of all Lewisham citizens.’

Ian’s background

Ian has had 33 years’ experience in the public, voluntary and private sectors and has worked in corporate services, children’s and adult social care, education and housing strategy. He is currently Strategic Director of Rotherham Borough Council’s Children and Young People’s Services (DCS) and since 2012 he has been chair of the national Association of Directors of Children’s Services’ resources and sustainability committee.

Before that, Ian was DCS and Deputy Chief Executive at Derbyshire County Council, where he led a service that became one of only a few to be rated ‘good’ across all areas under Ofsted’s tougher single inspection framework. Inspectors were impressed by the quality of the work delivered by his service and the learning culture which developed, resulting in sustainable improvement and consistently good outcomes for children. During this period, the number of schools rated good or better in Derbyshire increased and troubled families’ performance was rated fourth best nationally. This was achieved whilst delivering savings of £25m (19%).

In 2014, Ian was named by innovation charity NESTA and The Observer as of one of ‘Britain’s New Radicals’ for his creative ideas in raising aspirations for children in care. He holds a master’s degree in Developing Professional Practice (incorporating change management) and is a master’s-level qualified executive coach and mentor. 

More about Ian

  • Ian is 48, married with four adult children, and is of Jamaican heritage.
  • Ian attended Newfield Comprehensive School in Sheffield and is now a community school governor there.
  • Ian left school at 16 to live in London, working for WH Smiths, NSPCC, and the London boroughs of Newham and Tower Hamlets.
  • Ian has worked in the voluntary sector, teenage health project Base 51 in Nottingham and Nottingham Shelter. He also attempted to run his own business in music retail in 1992 but failed!
  • Before working in Derbyshire for eight and a half years, Ian was an assistant director in Trafford’s Social Care and Housing Strategy directorate, part of a team that transformed the service from a one-star (weak) to a three-star (excellent) rating. Ian was in Trafford for seven years.
  • Ian’s interests include sport – especially football, martial arts, keeping fit at the gym – and films, music and box sets. He does read too.  


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