Currently an assistant director in the housing department, Colligan has always been considered one of Camden’s most talented civil servants, ever since he was drawn away from the Home Office where he worked for six years before first rocking up to Judd Street in 2004. He was only meant to be on a two year secondment from Whitehall when he arrived as assistant chief executive to Moira Gibb. He obviously loved it so much, he couldn’t tear himself away.
Since then, he’s moved around the departments at Camden. So much so in fact, he began to remind me of the guy in Quantum Leap (remember that show?), who was always bouncing from one challenge to another, but always hoping his next leap would be the leap back to the Home Office.
Like Mr Quantum Leap man’s adventures, plenty of people will tell you he’s changed Camden’s council history for the better. His CV, after all, must surely note how he was in a senior role in the team that helped Camden scoop the highest ever marks received by a local authority from the Audit Commission.
But his hardest challenge was perhaps when he dropped in on the housing department last year at a time when tenants were angry that 1) council homes were being sold off and 2) a massive programme of repair work was hit with bad teething problems. Pressed at a public meeting, he came up with my favourite ever Colligan quote:
We always said we would make mistakes at the start of this. Where contractors have cocked things up, I want operatives to apologise and to go round with a bunch of flowers.
If only. That would be wonderful. He’s always aimed high.
I know he’s been “infuriated” with the New Jounrnal on more than one occasion, angry at the tone of coverage particularly on housing issues. Truth is, it’s a minefield for anybody who takes up that job until both local and national government seriously think about giving Camden tenants what they want and need. Messengers will be repeatedly shot down in the meantime.
I doubt he’ll miss reaching for a copy of the paper on a Thursday morning (or afternoon), but a lot of people at the council will clearly miss him. His next stop is NESTA to “head up a public service innovation lab”. I’m sure he’ll have goosepimples when he leaps for the final time later this month.