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Oldham’s Chief Executive encourages people to make the most of every opportunity.
Wednesday 13th March 2019 @ 12:01 by Anna Fletcher

Dr Carolyn Wilkins OBE is the first female Chief Executive for Oldham Council and spoke with us for International Women’s Day.

Carolyn was born in Yorkshire and after seven years of living in the South of England made her way back home to go to the University of Leeds where she studied Psychology. From there she got a graduate trainee job at Bolton Council.

Carolyn said: “I worked in the committee section and it was really good grounding for me, I got to learn all about how local government worked. I went to work for four more of the Greater Manchester authorities-Trafford, Salford, Crewe and Nantwich and Bury.”

It was at Bury Council that she was seconded to the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister acting as an external advisor to several public bodies.

Then in 2005 Carolyn became Deputy Chief Executive at Rossendale Council and worked her way to the Chief Executive position within a year. The council was rated as poor and over three years Carolyn along with the team there turned it around and saw the council reclassified as ‘good’ by the Audit Commission. Rossendale was only one of two councils nationwide to make that jump at the time.

It was from here she secured her position at Oldham Council, the first woman to take on the role. Carolyn undertook the lead chief executive role for Greater Manchester no a range of issues including being the architect for Greater Manchester Leadership and Workforce Development Framework as well as being the lead chief executive for Population Health.

Carolyn said: “I really love Oldham and when I came for the interview there was just something about the people that lived and worked here and I have continued to find that working with the team here and how they respond to challenges, it is a really enjoyable place to work. The variety of what we undertake is really vast, we get to work with communities to make a difference and it feels like we are making a real contribution.”

Carolyn will have been in the appointment for ten years in April and continues to enjoy the variety the job brings. More recently Carolyn has taken on the position of Accountable Officer for the NHS Oldham CCG.

She said: “It’s a lot of work because at the moment it is two jobs, but it has been really great and there are not many places that have integrated those roles, it is real cutting-edge work. We’re working together to make sure that Oldham is a place where people, families and communities thrive. A thriving Oldham means one where people are living healthy lives with the support to stay well and active for as long as possible. It means all of us doing our bit to look after our own health and it means making sure that they way we work is focused on promoting mental and physical wellbeing and when it’s needed, that support and care is available and is as connected with home and community as is possible.

“The opportunity to do that kind of large-scale integration is a big challenge and a big opportunity for us which is really exciting.”

Carolyn is also Chair of the board at Maggie’s Oldham and is soon to join the Christie’s Cancer Board.

In 2016, Carolyn received an OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honour’s List for services to Local Government and Public Service Reform.

She said: “I am really focused on the team so it felt a bit strange to receive it, but such a privilege. I really can’t do anything without the amazing team of people I work with so even though I got that as an individual I think of it as for the team.”

Carolyn added: “I don’t think we should limit ourselves, I have a daughter and a son and I want them both to be able to have as many opportunities as they can. If you want to do something then make the most of any opportunity, look for people that can support and help you. I have had so much support from both women and men over the years who have invested in my career and I am very thankful for that.

“So whatever you want to do go for it, but don’t feel like there is only one way to do something. Don’t get in your own way, dot let anybody else psyche you out and try. It may not work straight away but that is a lesson in itself. Have a good team around you and really love what you do. I love what I do and I believe it is making a difference and that really helps.”