The first female leader of Leeds City Council and a long-serving council officer dedicated to making Leeds the UK’s best city have both been recognised in the Queen’s birthday honours.
Councillor Judith Blake and Alan Gay were among those named in the prestigious honours list today in recognition of their years of service to local government.
The list, released today saw Cllr Blake awarded a CBE while Alan, Leeds City Council's former deputy chief executive, was given an OBE.
Serving as a local ward councillor for 21 years, Cllr Blake became executive member for the council’s Children’s Services department in 2010, leading the initiative to make Leeds a truly child friendly city.
A series of city-wide partnerships and focussed initiatives eventually saw Leeds become the first core city in the country to be judged good with outstanding leadership and governance by Ofsted in 2015.
Since becoming leader of the council in 2015, Cllr Blake has also worked to ensure Leeds hosts a programme of world class events to enhance the city’s profile and strengthen the local economy.
She introduced a 50/50 gender representation in her cabinet as well as seeing the council become a Real Living Wage employer from April 2016.
Leeds has also launched an ambitious bid to be named European Capital of Culture in 2023, been named council of the year by the Municipal Journal in 2016 and been named in Lonely Planet’s top five places to visit in Europe in 2017.
Councillor Jane Dowson, Lord Mayor of Leeds, said: “Councillor Blake has represented the people and city of Leeds at a local, national and international level for more than 20 years and this award is thoroughly deserved.
“During her time both as a councillor and council leader we have taken massive strides forward in the way we care for children and young people as well as seeing a huge boost in our city’s international profile and a string of major development projects which have been nothing short of transformative for the city.
“Underpinning all of this has been Cllr Blake’s dedication to balancing the need for a strong, resilient economy with compassion for the many people who are so proud to call Leeds home.”
Before leaving the council earlier this year, Alan Gay was the authority’s deputy chief executive, overseeing its hugely complex annual budget and capital programme.
Working in local government for almost 40 years, Alan played a key role in supporting and financing some of the biggest developments and events in the history of Leeds, including the Grand Depart of the Tour De France in 2014, and the construction of the first direct arena in 2013.
His innovative approach to stimulating the city’s economy and making local communities more resilient saw him named in Public Finance’s 2016 Top 50 outstanding individuals who have made a unique contribution to the effective use and management of public money.
Tom Riordan, chief executive of Leeds City Council, said: “What Alan achieved throughout his long service in Leeds was remarkable, particularly during of some of the most challenging periods local government finance has faced in living memory.
“His innovation and imagination was often instrumental in helping us to make the best possible use of public money and in making sure Leeds’s unprecedented economic success benefitted people living in all our communities.
“It is also telling that, despite some of the difficult financial circumstances we have faced as a council, Alan was always a popular and well-liked colleague throughout his time in Leeds.”
Both Cllr Blake and Alan will travel to London later this year to formally accept their awards from The Queen.