Profile: Jide Odusina, London Borough of Ealing - A change of perspective

When Jide Odusina became head of communications at Londond Borough of Waltham Forest, he gave himself five years to knock the department’s reputation into shape. A year ahead of schedule, he says his mission is accomplished and it is time to move on - in January he heads off for a fresh set of challenges at the London Borough of Ealing.

When Jide Odusina became head of communications at Londond Borough

of Waltham Forest, he gave himself five years to knock the department’s

reputation into shape. A year ahead of schedule, he says his mission is

accomplished and it is time to move on - in January he heads off for a

fresh set of challenges at the London Borough of Ealing.



In his new job, he will head a team of 11, responsible for external and

internal communications, and the council’s web site. The two areas have

a very different flavour - Ealing is not as far down the social

deprivation scale as Waltham Forest, which scores 22 on a national index

of 354 English councils. It has a busy film studio industry, and some

affluent neighbourhoods.



’Whereas in East London you’re dealing with poverty and a lot of

regeneration issues, Ealing has a nice social mix and there will be more

about quality of life issues,’ says Odusina. There are problems too -

its social services department was severely criticised this June by

former health minister Paul Boateng for failing children in its

care.



In conversation Odusina appears a fairly laid back character, but at

heart he is a man of great conviction. Growing up in London’s Ladbroke

Grove, he was set on being a scientist until one day in 1976, when the

annual Notting Hill Carnival ended in riots. Through his involvement in

a local black community group, 16-year-old Odusina somehow found himself

on national television acting as a spokesperson for black youths. ’When

you grow up as a black youth in London, you have no real voice, and I

suddenly realised that by working with the media, I could give a voice

to others in my community,’ he says.



As a student, Odusina was committed to promoting equal opportunities,

and did voluntary work for a number of organisations which eventually

led him into public sector PR. At Waltham Forest, his main concern has

been to communicate to residents what the council is trying to achieve:

’If people understand, they can make an informed choice on issues, and

that helps democracy work.’



To the extent that he has succeeded in this endeavour, he has paved the

way for the Government’s anticipated ’best value’ legislation, which

would drive councils to provide a more effective raft of services by

finding out what the local community actively wants.



Sensing that local government PR in the 1990s has lacked a degree of

self-confidence, Odusina has taken every opportunity to boost his own

team’s morale. Thanks to him, Waltham Forest now has a bespoke IT system

to help with day-to-day inquiries, and he is a great believer in staff

development. Odusina’s superiors have tended to give him a loose

rein.



’My career has definitely been helped by people who have given me the

chance to take risks,’ he says.



Those who know him say he has a knack for drawing out people’s

strengths.



Friend and former colleague Christine Johnson, media and communications

manager at the Local Government Management Board, says, ’He is someone

you can trust, who wants you to develop personally as well as in your

career.’



Odusina clearly thrives on the daily grind of local government. ’The

scope for unhelpful news stories is huge - people will pick up anything

from a report, give it any kind of twist and then give it to the press,’

he says.



Odusina grew up in London, part of an extended family with parents from

petit aristocratic Nigerian stock who were strongly nationalistic. He

attributes his evident taste for the push and shove of public sector PR

to what he calls the endless ’family shenanigans’ over land and money

that characterised his early life. Now settled with a wife and three

young children, he spends his spare time researching African culture,

and plans to write a book on his family history. Workwise, his mind is

firmly set on Ealing. ’I want to involve the people in the changes that

are taking place in local politics - we’re moving into a very exciting

time.’



HIGHLIGHTS

1989

Press and PR officer, The London Borough Grants Committee

1992

Senior publicity and information officer, The London Housing Unit

1994

Communications head, Waltham Forest Council

1998

Communications head, Ealing Council



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