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Mike Harden

Mike Harden to retire as Knowsley Council’s Chief Executive

by Gemma Melling

Mike Harden, the Chief Executive of Knowsley Council, has announced that he will be retiring in January 2025, after more than ten years in the role.

Mike’s career in local government spans almost 40 years, the last 28 of which have been at Knowsley Council.  He was appointed as Chief Executive in 2014 having previously held the role of Deputy Chief Executive and various Director level positions in Finance, Corporate Resources, and Regeneration and Economic Development.

During his time as Chief Executive, Mike has personally led some of the Borough’s most successful and transformative regeneration projects, whilst also working to ensure the long-term sustainability of the Council and the Borough at a time of some enormous challenges.  To cap a long list of achievements, only last week Knowsley Council was announced as the UK’s Local Authority of the Year at the Municipal Journal Awards in London.

Mike said: “I’m extremely proud of what we have achieved at Knowsley, and particularly over the last decade while I have been privileged to be Chief Executive. During that time, we have made sure that the Council is sustainable, despite facing the most significant level of Government funding cuts of any local authority in the country.  We coped well with huge challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic, when infection rates were higher in Knowsley than anywhere else in the country.  And of course, we have had to find ways to support local people during a cost of living crisis which was not of their making.

“I think I am proudest of how this Council refuses to be defined by those challenges and remains ambitious for the Borough and its people.  That’s why we pushed forward on major regeneration initiatives, including taking control of Kirkby Town Centre and delivering a retail offer which had been promised for many years by various private sector owners but never delivered.  And of course, we built and opened the Shakespeare North Playhouse, which has breathed life into Prescot and is the envy of many places.

“There is still much more to do of course, but I think it is time for somebody else to ‘have a go!’  Ten years in a job like this feels like a long time, and I’m looking forward to a less stressful retirement.

“I want to thank everyone I have worked with for their support during my time as Chief Executive – the staff and Councillors here really are some of the most dedicated people I have ever met.

“Knowsley is a really special place and, whilst I will be sad to bid farewell, I have no doubt that whoever takes over from me will have a great opportunity to steer the Borough to a really positive future.”

Cllr Graham Morgan, Leader of Knowsley Council, added: “As Leader of Knowsley Council, I have enjoyed working closely with Mike throughout my term in office.  Having been a Knowsley Councillor for almost thirty years now , I have come to know Mike well.  I have always been hugely impressed by his commitment to Knowsley and his determination and drive to demand the very best for our Borough.

“Mike has been personally instrumental in delivering significant positive changes in Knowsley and has led on some of the projects which have helped to redefine and reinvigorate our Borough in recent times – not least our decision to purchase and redevelop Kirkby Town Centre and build the Shakespeare North Playhouse.  He took on those roles while also leading an organisation having to navigate brutal Government funding cuts, working hard to attract new investment, improving key services, and supporting our communities through a global pandemic and a cost of living crisis.

“The organisation, under his leadership of our workforce, has gone from strength to strength and partnership working and relationships across the Borough have also improved greatly thanks to his collaborative and open style.

“I have always appreciated Mike’s commitment, attention to detail, honesty and humour.  He has been a great champion for Knowsley, a fantastic colleague to work with, and someone I now consider a friend.

“We are going to miss him as Chief Executive but I am sure that fellow Councillors, officers and our residents will want to wish him all the best for a long, happy and healthy retirement, when the time comes early next year.”

A recruitment process will now begin to appoint to the role before the end of 2024.  This will allow for a formal handover and smooth transition to a new Chief Executive at the start of 2025.