GENUINE intrigue at the Town Hall on Wednesday night as news suddenly broke that Jim Wintour, the director of housing and adult social services at Camden Council, is to leave. He is to retire. Just nine months after he arrived, telling us all how “very excited he was”.
Mr Wintour – his sister is Anna Wintour, who has the only slightly more glamourous job of being editor-in-chief of Vogue – was ultimately in charge of a department punched for selling off council homes and scrutinised over the case of Jennyfer Spencer, a woman confined to a wheelchair who died in a Gospel Oak flat leaving a note to the Camden New Journal asking reporters to investigate her appeals for help. Insiders say he was dealing with the pressure-filled job brilliantly and that he was a measured voice at the top of the directorate. A breath of fresh air.
But however wonderful he was, the timing of his departure (the explanation is ‘personal reasons’) gives Camden a massive headache. Its lost a leader at a time when the uncertain outcomes of elections means everybody is already at a wait and see stage in the cyclical nature of local government. If Labour were to win back the council, somehow, the policy of selling council homes would be axed and the civil servants left in Mr Wintour’s department will have to swing behind a whole new course of action.
To advertise, interview and recruit a replacement will take months, but his going – a shock to everyone I phoned last night – will leave holes in the dyke needing quick plugging. Tricky times ahead at Judd Street.