Manchester City Council

Sheila Newman - the city’s loss

It wouldn’t be right to return to normal posts without first talking about the tragic death of a colleague and comrade, Sheila Newman. There are parts of her life I know little about, not least the family that was so important to her, but I’m sure all our thoughts are with Eddy, their daughters, and her wider family and friends.

Earlier in the week I heard one of her ward colleagues talk movingly about her contribution to the ward she lived in and represented on the Council, and the esteem and affection in which she was held by so many in her Chorlton ward. What I feel able to say something about is the contribution Sheila made to the city as a whole and especially to its children.
I’ve known Sheila for over thirty years and indeed she and Eddy were once briefly residents in my own ward of Crumpsall. Then she was part of the revolution that swept through the City Council in 1984 and I don’t think her political commitment and integrity had wavered one bit since then. Indeed I cannot think of a single senior politician I have known over that time with less ego and more genuine commitment than Sheila Newman.
In the last decade she has served two separate terms as Executive Member for Children’s Services. If you go back to the Ofsted inspection of that first term you will see a glowing testimonial to the leadership and support she provided. Although she dealt with all the meetings that went with the role she loved nothing better than being out visiting services and talking to staff and service users, although of all of those many services, I suspect it was visiting schools she liked best. She wasn’t afraid to take tough decisions if she thought they were right for our children and their families, and there was none tougher in that period than the decision to close Ewing School, but as was usually the case with Sheila, history has shown that difficult though it was, she chose the right course.
Her second term was dominated by the work to improve our Childrens Services following a dreadful inspection and Sheila’s response to that in many ways says everything you need to know about her as a politician. In May last year her husband Eddy became Lord Mayor and she very much wanted to share that once in a lifetime experience with him as Lady Mayoress. But she could not have done that. Indeed could not rest, until our Children’s Services had been reinspected and that she could be satisfied that they were no longer judged to be inadequate. Over the past couple of months she was able to enjoy being Lady Mayoress but only after a vastly improved inspection report had been published. Her love of and commitment to the children of this city came first.
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The blog of the leader of Manchester City Council, Councillor Richard Leese.

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