Praise for two outstanding directors

By Michael Burton | 26 January 2022

The calibre of senior managers is so strong that two leading local authority directors ended up sharing the top prize in the Corporate Director of the Year category at The MJ Awards last year.

The winners were Jo Britton, executive director of children’s and family services at Telford & Wrekin Council and Dr Paul Edmondson-Jones, director of adult services and public health at Stoke-on-Trent City Council.

Members of the corporate management team are a vital support for the chief executive and elected members and to the efficient running of the authority and the category recognises this important role.

Jo Britton, executive director of children’s and family services at Telford & Wrekin Council

Jo took on the role in 2020 having previously been director of safeguarding and family support at the council, a position she had held since 2015 since when she has been at the forefront of steering children’s services and family support to an Ofsted outstanding grading.

She has almost 30 years of experience working at all levels with children and young people’s services, having previously worked at Wolverhampton City Council, Staffordshire CC and Cafcass.

Her colleagues’ entry said: ‘Jo inspires and motivates colleagues, taking them with her on Telford & Wrekin Council’s journey of transformation, as a result of her innovative thinking, her collaborative approach with the workforce and her genuine empathy and care for improving outcomes for children.’

In 2020, Telford & Wrekin Council’s children’s services were rated outstanding by Ofsted, becoming the second council ever to have transformed services from ‘requires improvement’ in 2016 to ‘outstanding’ in one leap. Jo delivered a clear and ambitious vision throughout this transformation. The entry concluded: ‘Jo continues to lead and drive Telford and Wrekin’s outstanding children’s services. And despite our success, it is clear that Jo maintains an ongoing passion to continually improve services.’

The MJ judging panel said: ‘Jo effectively and impressively led the journey from ‘requires improvement’ to ‘outstanding’ across children’s services. She delivered through a notably clear and ambitious vision with an engaging passion for improving services. She created a positive culture where social workers can make a positive impact on children’s lives in all circumstances.’

Jes Ladva, partner and head of government at Odgers Interim, the category sponsor, said: ‘Achieving an outstanding Ofsted judgment in children’s services is a remarkable feat. To do this in the context of 2020, while simultaneously playing an active role in corporate objectives, was unanimously acknowledged by the panel.’

Dr Paul Edmondson-Jones, director of adult services and public health at Stoke-on-Trent City Council

Almost 40 years on since Dr Paul Edmondson-Jones served with distinction on the frontline of the Falklands war followed by a career in local government no-one could have foreseen that in 2020 Paul would be asked to lead Stoke into a new battle as the coronavirus pandemic struck.

In their submission, Cllr Abi Brown, Stoke’s leader and city director Jon Rouse, wrote that ‘throughout as director of adult services and of public health, Paul has led from the front, acting magnificently and with incredible impact’.

They added: ‘Fundamentally his leadership has saved lives. A brilliant planner, a great tactician and a fantastic communicator that has given people huge confidence in his ability to lead them through the pandemic.’

Paul’s work has not just benefited Stoke-on-Trent. He has co-chaired the strategic co-ordinating group with his opposite number at Staffordshire CC throughout the crisis, ensuring a high level of collaboration across a population of over one million people.

He also realised straight away that the early national efforts with respect to PPE, food distribution, and tracing were not going to be sufficient and rapidly put in place effective local arrangements. Drawing on his army experience he brought into the authority a top naval planner and built a GIS-mapped database of all vulnerable households so the council could organise support to them. Paul facilitated the conversion of a local sports centre into a food, PPE and other essential supplies distribution hub, using the council’s wholly-owned housing company as a distribution solution.

Cllr Brown and Mr Rouse concluded in their entry: ‘Stoke-on-Trent is incredibly fortunate to have Dr Paul Edmondson-Jones as a corporate director in this authority at this time. It would have been unthinkable to have gone through the last year without him. He is simply one of the very best in the land at what he does and over the last year, he has proven it every single day.’

Jes Ladva said: ‘Paul is a great example of someone leading through uncertainty with insight, intelligence, experience, and example. His leadership and wider contribution internally and externally were universally acknowledged by the judging panel.

To enter this category for The MJ Achievement Awards 2022, visit:

Closing date has been extended to 4 February 2022

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