The chairman of Brighton and Hove City Council’s Children, Young People and Skills Committee, Councillor Tom Bewick, has stepped down.
Councillor Bewick, who grew up in foster care, has spent almost two years running the committee charged with overseeing children’s social services.
The 45-year-old Labour councillor, who runs the premium apprenticeships jobs board LoveApprenticeship.com, has worked in the educations, skills and training sector and as a consultant and policy adviser.
The father of three said that he wanted to focus on his ward – Westbourne in Hove – and his business.
Council leader Warren Morgan thanked Councillor Bewick and praised him for his “clear leadership and purpose” and “wide-ranging and invaluable” contribution to the council’s leadership since May 2015.
Councillor Dan Chapman, currently the deputy chairman of the Children, Young People and Skills Committee, will take over as chairman until the annual council meeting in May. Councillor Caroline Penn will take over as deputy while Councillor Bewick will remain a councillor for Westbourne Ward.
Councillor Morgan said: “Councillor Dan Chapman brings huge experience in education and has ably demonstrated his ability to lead the committee through his work on schools admissions as deputy chair.”
Councillor Bewick wrote …
After some reflection over the holiday period, I’ve decided to resign from the leadership team.
I will of course be continuing as Westbourne ward councillor, representing local residents on the council.
The main factor in taking this difficult decision has been my desire to spend more time on my growing outside interests.
As you know, I’m involved in several promising entrepreneurial ventures in this country and abroad. These businesses are placing a heavy burden on my time. It calls for a rebalancing of my civic and commercial responsibilities.
I’ve also reached the conclusion that my young family and ward residents require a much greater commitment from me than has been possible hitherto, not least because of the important city-wide role that I’ve undertaken on behalf of the Labour administration.
It was a real privilege to be appointed by you as the lead member for children’s services, after the Labour Party’s eight years of opposition in the council chamber.
It’s been a great pleasure to work alongside you in the administration, with deputy leader Councillor Gill Mitchell, and talented colleagues at both the political and officer level.
Of course, it is for others to decide what contribution I’ve made to this portfolio since May 2015.
I’m very proud of the fact that our schools have continued to improve. Thanks to the hard work of teachers and pupils across the city – for the first time ever – over 95 per cent of our schools are rated good or outstanding by Ofsted. No schools are failing.
Despite the budget challenges, we’ve invested in the early years, stronger child protection measures and kept council-run nurseries in public ownership. The LGA peer review showed that the local authority is well on its way to being rated very highly for the children’s services it provides.
Given my passion for apprenticeships, it was an honour to help establish the Employer-led Skills Task Force.
The fact that apprenticeships in the city have recently increased by nearly 20 per cent shows that our strategy is working.
At today’s committee meeting we will be discussing the Care Leavers’ Trust Fund. As you know, it is an initiative very close to my heart.
I first visited Brighton as a foster child in the early 1980s – on a day trip from the Midlands. I had no idea then that this city would one day become my adopted home.
I still pinch myself even now – the care leaver from Warwickshire who left school with no qualifications and ended up being put in charge of education and social services in one of the most vibrant cities in Europe.
Thank you. It’s been a privilege to serve. I hope perhaps, when circumstances change, there will be a chance for me to return to the front line in future.
I would like to put on record my sincere thanks to Geoff Raw, Pinaki Ghoshal, David Kuenssberg, Helen Gulvin, Jo Lyons, Hilary Ferries, Abraham Ghebre-Ghiorghis, Natasha Watson and Faye Perry for the brilliant professional support and advice they have provided me in this role.
We may give some political leadership but it is our staff that undertakes much of the hard work. Keeping the city’s 50,000 children and young people nourished in learning and above all, safe, is something we should all applaud.
Finally, I’d like to thank the trades unions. They have been thoroughly decent and constructive in all the dealings I’ve had with them.
I wish you every continued success in leading the council.
I will continue to serve the administration and provide all the support I can from the backbenches.
Councillor Morgan wrote …
Can I first of all thank you for your kind words. They are very much appreciated.
I totally understand your need at this stage to return to a greater focus on your business. I will always be grateful for you taking considerable amounts of time away from that over the past 18 months to lead our administration’s efforts to improve all schools and ensure that the potential of all of the young people in this city is realised.
I am sure I speak for colleagues in the leadership team and wider Labour and Co-operative group in saying that your contribution to the leadership of the city council has been wide-ranging and invaluable in these extremely challenging times. Your experience in Westminster, in business and in your community has been an enormous asset over the past 18 months.
As you say in your letter, schools in Brighton and Hove are continuing to improve with 95 per cent rated good or outstanding by Ofsted and none judged to be failing. In no small part that is down to your leadership alongside our excellent officer team and our incredibly strong family of schools.
As an incoming leader of the council in May 2015 I was extremely lucky in being elected alongside a very talented pool of councillors such as yourself and I had no hesitation in offering you the role of chair of the Children, Young People and Skills Committee.
It is as challenging as any of the senior roles in the administration and a daunting one for any newly elected councillor but one that you ably took up with enthusiasm and drive.
You have brought a focus and a rigour to the role that has challenged custom and practice and unique experience as a former foster child yourself to the council’s role as corporate parent.
I am delighted that you will be able to continue as a lead trustee of the city council’s new Care Leavers’ Trust Fund which you have been instrumental in setting up.
From the outset you have provided clear leadership and purpose on the issue of apprenticeships, particularly through Greater Brighton and the Employer-led Skills Task Force, which has helped increase apprenticeships in the city by nearly 20 per cent. I know you will continue to take a keen interest in this area.
I know you will continue to make a valuable contribution to discussions within the group and at full council meetings as well as in your role as ward councillor for Westbourne and I look forward to a time in the future when you can once again take up a senior role and responsibilities within the city council.
Thank you for your work, friendship and support.