Five years, one month and a day after joining the HCA, I departed last Thursday to take up a new job.
I’m returning to agency life at JBP, an extremely well-respected company which specialises in PR (in all its forms) consultation and public affairs. From tomorrow, I’ll be a senior account director in its Bristol office and I am hugely looking forward to the opportunity.
That’s not to say that it was an easy decision to leave the HCA. After all, I was able to influence discussion around a hugely important area of government work. I had a flexible and fair employer and I enjoyed what I did. In the end, I moved because it offers me an opportunity to progress my career in areas that are most important to me.
I will still champion the HCA though and there are many reasons for this. Three of them have stood out in recent conversations.
#1 making a difference: the debate around housing has really cut through and it’s universally acknowledged that there’s a shortage of homes that affects every part of the country. The HCA doesn’t play into this debate (difficult for a government body). But the impact of its work in funding new housing, helping people into home ownership and supporting development on sites others have put in the ‘too difficult’ box can’t be ignored. Look at the headlines from my patch over three years in the graphic below: almost half of the homes built there were supported by HCA. That’s lots of lives changed and I witnessed first hand in places like Cranbrook the difference these interventions made.
#2 Change was embraced: In five years we had four chief execs, five housing ministers, six heads of department / team and more programmes than I can remember. Some changes had lasting implications for the sector and required many conversations to implement. This took place against a backdrop of a restructure in 2011, when everyone had to reapply for their jobs. This was followed by the transfer of hundreds of sites and staff from the Regional Development Agencies and the setting up of a new investment arm. The only thing that’s been constant in my time at the HCA has been change, all handled professionally and respectfully. I’ll point that out to people who suggest government is inflexible and unbending in the way it works.
#3 turning things around: I’m most proud of my work on complex and challenging projects that are starting to reach a tipping point where things are happening. This is the ‘too difficult’ stuff referred to above. Projects like the former air base at Daedalus in Hampshire, which had a history of under-investment and a fair few clapped out buildings when the HCA inherited it in 2011. Since then, a new college has been built, superb business space is nearly open, the airfield has been relaunched and has a viable future and employers and investors are moving in. Beside its Bristol office, the HCA’s investment has brought forward the fantastic Engine Shed business hub at Temple Meads and unlocked the site earmarked for the long-awaited arena project, which has significant momentum behind it. These projects happen thanks to the skilled and dedicated teams putting in the hard yards over many years.
I’m proud to have been part of it and have learned a hell of a lot. I’ll follow the work with interest over the coming years.
And it’s a turning point for this blog too. Over the next few months, I’ve a lot to do and learn. That may inspire the blog’s future direction. Watch this space and, feel free to make suggestions and do please stay in touch.