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SALFORD CITY COUNCIL WORKER NAMED PUBLIC SECTOR HERO 2006

Julie Blagden, Neighbourhood Manager, Salford City Council, was today named winner of the first ever Local Government Channel and Local Government Association (LGA) “Employee of the Year Award” at the LGA’s Annual Conference in Bournemouth.

Despite stiff competition from the other five finalists, originally selected from over two hundred nominations representing local councils across England and Wales, Julie was the clear winner, receiving over 13 thousand votes from colleagues, friends, and the general public.

With the aim of improving the lives of local people, breaking down barriers and promoting social inclusion, Julie successfully mediated between three separate Yemeni groups to create one organisation to speak for all. She then helped to secure over £100,000 of funding to deliver services such as English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) and computer classes.

In the process, Julie learnt about Yemeni culture and Islam, and even helped to serve food at Eid celebrations. Often working evenings and weekends, Julie’s commitment to her the role has been unwavering.

Supported by Andy Abraham, ex-bin-man turned X-Factor star, the search for the public sector hero of 2006 has emulated the success of the hit TV series – X-Factor – with the finalists’ combined votes totaling over 40 thousand.

In today’s award ceremony, Sir Sandy Bruce-Lockhart, Chairman of the LGA, presented Julie with a trophy and a cheque for £500.
Accepting the award, Julie said: “I'm very proud to be a finalist and a winner. It’s a privilege to do my job and make a difference. Salford is a great city and I'm honoured to represent it.”

Sir Sandy Bruce-Lockhart said: “I’d not only like to congratulate Julie on winning the award – a fantastic achievement, particularly in the face of such strong competition – but applaud the others – all of whom were worthy contenders, clearly demonstrating their ability to go above and beyond the call of duty. The award has not only helped to raise awareness and change public perceptions, but more importantly, instill a sense of pride in thousands of public sector workers up and down the country.”

Lyndon Elsey, Assistant Registrar of Cemeteries and Crematorium, City and County of Swansea came in second place, and in third position was Garry Atkins, Senior Community Development Officer, Harrogate Borough Council. Lynne Debbazi, Jobs, Education and Training (JET) Business Coordinator, Liverpool City Council came in fourth place followed by Geoff Green, Special Service Librarian, Devon County Council, and Sue Butler, Environmental Health Technical Officer, Gosport Borough Council.

Stephen Horn, CEO of hbl media and executive producer of The Local Government Channel, said: “Our first ever Employee of the Year Award has been a resounding success, both in terms of the standard of nominations received and the response we’ve had from the voting public. We’re keen to include more categories next year and therefore more winners. All local councils in England and Wales should begin thinking about the employees that they believe to be worthy of nomination in 2007. We will be providing details of next year’s awards shortly.”

Although voting has now ended, finalist details and a short documentary about each employee can still be viewed on The Local Government Channel website – www.thelocalgovernmentchannel.com – along with the award ceremony.

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Finalist details

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• Julie Blagden, Neighbourhood Manager, Salford City Council

With the aim of improving the lives of local people, breaking down barriers and promoting social inclusion, Julie successfully mediated between three separate Yemeni groups to create one organisation to speak for all. She then helped to secure over £100,000 to deliver services such as English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) and computer classes. In the process, Julie learnt about Yemeni culture and Islam, and even helped to serve food at Eid celebrations. Often working evenings and weekends, Julie’s commitment to her the role is unwavering.

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• Lyndon Elsey, Assistant Registrar of Cemeteries and Crematorium, City and County of Swansea

Often praised for going the extra mile, Lyndon recently helped a woman to trace her grandfather’s grave using municipal records, council archives, library and death certification, despite knowing only that he died in the 1940s/50s in Swansea. In his own time, he tended to the grave, took photographs and sent them on, and even met up with the woman in person to escort her to her grandfather’s final resting place. Lyndon’s patience, understanding and empathy have earned him 34 letters and messages of gratitude from clients.

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• Garry Atkins, Senior Community Development Officer, Harrogate Borough Council

Winner of the Regional Crime Beat Competition 2005, Garry has been congratulated by the police for his crime reducing work with young people. Working tirelessly and showing a remarkable level of dedication and commitment, Garry leads the Fairfax Fishing Club in his free time – meeting at 5.30am on a Saturday morning – to help build relationships with disadvantaged young people. Sensitive to the needs of the wider community, on Christmas day, Garry cooks lunch for elderly people who might otherwise spend the day on their own.

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• Geoff Green, Special Service Librarian, Devon County Council

For over 36 years, Geoff has been delivering library services to people who have difficulty getting to or using their local library. Geoff arranges for collections to be placed at residential homes, sheltered housing and other establishments and, with the help of the WRVS, the delivery of books to people who are housebound due to age and/or disability. Geoff also won a British Telecom grant of £25,000 which enabled Devon County Council to pilot ways in which people with learning disabilities could be helped to use library services.

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• Lynne Debbazi, Jobs, Education and Training (JET) Business Coordinator, Liverpool City Council

Lynne improves the lives of local people in some of the most deprived areas of Liverpool. She recently secured jobs for 100 local unemployed people at a new Tesco store, many of whom had never worked before and/or have disabilities, as well as increasing Sony’s recruitment of local people by 400%. Often going above the call of duty, Lynne gave up a day’s holiday to help a profoundly deaf client with a job application form. Lynne is a single mother of two and is currently battling leukaemia.

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• Sue Butler, Environmental Health Technical Officer, Gosport Borough Council

Sue’s exceptional ability to relate to people of all ages has proved invaluable in ensuring the success of initiatives such as Walking to Health for senior citizens, the Beach Safety Workshop and Junior Citizen Project, delivering life skills training for children. Most recently, Sue became aware of a local woman who had been date-raped and very quickly organised and ran a campaign, with the support of local pubs and clubs, to raise awareness and prevent further attacks by giving away free “spikeys”.

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About the Employee of the Year Award

Organised by The Local Government Channel with the full support of the LGA, the ‘Employee of the Year Award’ celebrates the contribution that public sector employees make to their local community. The Local Government Channel will issue details of the 2007 awards shortly.

To subscribe to news alerts visit www.thelocalgovernmentchannel.com

About The Local Government Channel

Aimed at the local government community, The Local Government Channel broadcasts weekly programmes, combining news, views and interviews with the movers and shakers in local government. Programmes can be viewed daily on Sky Channel 181 at 6.30pm Monday to Friday and at midday on Sunday.

Viewers can also catch the programmes any time day or night through a new dedicated web portal – www.thelocalgovernmentchannel.com

About hbl media

Launched and run by senior BBC journalists, hbl media is the leading television production company in the local government sector. Having launched LGAtv, SOLACEtv, CIPFAtv and many others, it is widely respected for having brought the power of television to bear on the issues facing the public sector. With offices in London and the USA, hbl media is currently bringing this expertise to bear on a global scale.

www.hblmedia.com

About the Local Government Association

The Local Government Association (LGA), formed on 1 April 1997, promotes the interests of English and Welsh local authorities – a total of just under 500 authorities. These represent over 50 million people and spend around £74 billion a year on local services.

For further information please contact:

Vicky Hayden
hbl media
Tel: 020 7612 1830
Email: vicky@hblmedia.com