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Thursday, March 11, 1999 Published at 21:17 GMT


Council boss quits ahead of schools report

The government sent an education 'hit squad' into Hackney

The Chief Executive of Hackney Borough Council, Tony Elliston, has resigned ahead of what is expected to be another damning report on standards of education in the local education authority.

He said he was leaving after four years in the post now that the council was "on the road to continued improvements".

But an Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted) report on the education authority, due out next week, is expected to condemn standards in the borough's schools.

[ image: Tony Elliston:
Tony Elliston: "Time to move on"
It is possible the report will prompt further intervention from the government, with Hackney at risk of becoming the first local education authority to have its powers taken away and replaced by a management appointed directly by the education secretary.

An Audit Commission report published on Thursday showed that Hackney suffered the biggest drop in performance at GCSE - results last year were down 4% on the previous year. Primary school test results are also well below the national average.

Hackney's education department has already been subject to a government 'hit squad'. Mr Elliston had a public rift with them over how best to solve the problems.


Mr Elliston was appointed as chief executive to turn the council around.

He introduced a project called Transforming Hackney, and is regarded as having had a number of successes, including cutting bureaucracy and reducing council tax.

[ image: Achilles heel: The poor performance of the borough's schools]
Achilles heel: The poor performance of the borough's schools
But improving education performance in the borough has proved more of a problem.

Explaining his decision to leave, Mr Elliston said: "I believe that we have reached a point in our change programme where the foundations are firmly in place and we are on the road to continued improvements.

"Now the budget process is over and the new administration has settled in, it is time to consider my position.

"I have worked extremely hard over the past four years and there comes a time when you have to get a balance back into your life, especially when you have a wife and young family to consider.

"My four years at Hackney have been exhilarating. Despite public perception, the borough is a fantastic place and I have enjoyed working with local residents.

"It is now important that the council has time to reflect on the way forward and to consider Hackney's needs."

'No plot'

But Diane Abbott, Labour MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington, said: "It could well be that he wouldn't feel he could continue to be chief executive if such a large chunk of Hackney's responsibilities were taken away ."

For most of the time Mr Elliston has spent in charge of the council, no political party has had overall control, and the smaller parties claim the Labour government has long wanted to get rid of him.

Labour has not liked much of what he has done, but dismissed claims of a plot against him.

The Labour group leader, Councillor David Manion, acknowledged that there had been differences but said he was sorry to see Mr Elliston go.

"Tony Elliston has laid the foundations for Hackney to become one of the best authorities in London," he said. "I have been impressed with his energy and integrity. He will be greatly missed."

Councillor Kevin Daws, leader of the Liberal Democrats, and Councillor Eric Ollerenshaw, leader of the Conservative group, also paid tribute to Mr Elliston's achievements as chief executive.

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