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Meet the New Joint CEO: ‘I’m Here To Make Guildford and Waverley Brilliant Places’

Published on: 28 Mar, 2024
Updated on: 9 Apr, 2024

The new joint chief executive officer for Guildford & Waverley Councils has taken up post at a particularly challenging time, especially for Guildford, where financial management problems have now been added to ongoing Local Plan issues.

Martin Giles meets the new CEO with other local journalists and reports…

The first impression of Pedro Wrobel is that he looks very young to be a CEO of a council. It seems to be something of which he is self-conscious and when asked said he did not wish to give his age.

He could easily pass for being a thirty-something but according to a Cambridge University website (where he has a policy fellowship), he started work as a civil servant as a graduate in 2003, which would make him roughly 43 or 44.

Obviously bright, he studied politics, philosophy and economics at Oxford, the degree and university of choice for many aspiring politicians. He is also likeable – friendly, relaxed and approachable – and he still has the optimism of youth.

Having spent 18 years in the civil service, starting as a pensions economist and ending up as Director of Planning at the Department for Levelling Up Homes and Communities, he moved three years ago to Westminster City Council as the executive director for Innovation and Change, responsible for central corporate functions, community engagement, leisure services, parks, open spaces and cemeteries.

He is a married man, father of two boys, nine and six, and lives with his family in Surbiton, commuting each day on the A3.

His grandparents moved to Brazil to escape German occupation in Poland and Pedro lived in Brazil until he was 10 when he moved to the UK. As well as his first name, his Brazilian background has given him an enduring love of coffee and he hopes to sample every coffee shop in Guildford and Waverley.

He is no stranger to the two boroughs. “We love Winkworth Arboretum, we love Guilford Spectrum and I’ve spent far too much time at Ninja Warrior,” he says adding, “Many of my favourite video games, when I was growing up, were made here.” He explains that his decision to apply for the joint CEO role was driven by a desire to lead a council in a place with which he had a connection.

He was also impressed with something one of the two council leaders had said to him. “They talked about: ‘…doing the right thing, and not the easy thing’. That for me is so important given the challenges that we have here, particularly in Guildford, but in local government as a whole, given what’s happening to local government financing.”

Describing his overall objective he says: “The key thing for me is I’m here to make Guildford and Waverley brilliant places to live, work and do business in and that’s the underpinning principle for everything.

“That means a council that delivers value for money across the piece. I want us, all of us, officers and councillors to be able to stand in front of residents and businesses and explain how we’re making best use of their money, how every pound that they give us in council tax or business rates is being made to go as far as it’s possible. Because they have a right to expect that and that’s what we ought to be doing as a council.”

So why did he move from central to local government? He explained: “In the civil service every question has a national answer. Every answer is couched in that context, and you’re looking for the best possible national answer. But if Covid has taught us one thing, it’s taught us that local matters, and that the right answer for one place is not the right answer for another. So you have to answer things at that local level and you have to make decisions at that local level.”

To get to know his patch better he spends each Friday walking around different wards so he can see things through residents’ eyes. “I want to see what they’re worried about, the things that residents are writing to you about, so that I actually understand and can see a real level what’s happening.

“Then when that comes across my desk, I’ll actually understand the reality of what it’s about, rather than the theory and treating it as an abstract because at the heart of this are real people. And if you forget about the people at the heart of everything, you’re going to get the wrong answer.”

Next, in Part 2, Pedro Wrobel explains how he sees the CEO role, how long he intends to be in Guildford & Waverley, some of the current issues at GBC and his view of the Guildford Waverley collaboration, accountability and press relations.

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Responses to Meet the New Joint CEO: ‘I’m Here To Make Guildford and Waverley Brilliant Places’

  1. Jim Allen Reply

    March 28, 2024 at 3:54 pm

    I wonder if he will drop in for coffee in Burpham?

  2. T Saunders Reply

    March 28, 2024 at 5:15 pm

    A warm welcome to Mr Wrobel, good luck!

  3. Jules Cranwell Reply

    March 29, 2024 at 6:23 am

    I’m inviting him to visit West Horsley, to see first hand the devastation caused by the disastrous local plan. Walking would be best, given the state of our roads.

  4. Gareth Archard Reply

    March 31, 2024 at 12:37 pm

    I welcome Mr Wrobel to his new job and hope he will reply personally to my correspondence to him on the flooding issues I have to endure from GBC land.

  5. Hyde Peter Reply

    April 2, 2024 at 8:02 am

    If joint management is a good idea is it not logical to merge the two councils and halve the number of councillors?

    • John Perkins Reply

      April 3, 2024 at 7:06 am

      Only if you accept the argument that larger bodies are somehow more efficient.

  6. RWL Davies Reply

    April 3, 2024 at 2:08 pm

    Mr. Hyde’s suggestion is pragmatic and sensible but this will count against it being implemented.

  7. Frank Emery Reply

    April 3, 2024 at 3:49 pm

    Good luck with that! Unfortunately I don’t believe in miracles, magic wands or fairies.

  8. Alan Judge Reply

    April 5, 2024 at 9:48 am

    Not revealing your age screams “What about openness and transparency?”

    Great start.

  9. Ben Paton Reply

    April 5, 2024 at 10:33 am

    I’m sorry to say that the new chief executive’s statements all sound sugar coated, and “supercalifragilistic”. They make the medicine go down.

    Modern politics is about “public relations” aka saying one thing and then doing something completely different. We too are cutting down the equivalent of the Amazon rainforest by junction 10 of the M25. The new chief executive says he grew up in Brazil. What does he have to say about any of that?

    The PR mantra of all of the recent leaders from Cllr Mansbridge and Juneja to Cllrs Spooner and Furniss to Cllr McShane has been to make the world a better place. But the slow motion train wreck, like the 2019 Local Plan, just goes on and on.

    What about the grubby reality? For example £18 million, some of it possibly mis-spent, in the Housing Revenue Account? Or the backroom deal to give an option to Surrey University over council land to facilitate its develop of a new suburb on green field and former green belt land? Or the failure of the council to publish Inspector Bore’s [Local Plan examining inspector] “note” on the Site of Nature Conservation Importance’ covering all of Three Farms Meadow on its Local Plan inspection website? Or the council’s back room decision to remove the SNCI designation from the site against the written advice of the Surrey Nature Partnership and Surrey County Council. The list goes on an on.

    Will the new chief executive do anything about any of that? Or will the stones remain firmly unturned – which was the Civil Service approach to the Post Office?

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