iNetwork recently convened its quarterly executive board meeting on Friday, December 8th, where unanimous agreement was reached on the appointment of a new Executive Chair and Deputy chair.

We are thrilled to announce the appointment of Alison McKenzie Folan, Chief Executive of Wigan Council, as our new Chair. Joining her in a pivotal supporting role is Sarah Bullock, Director of Policy and Change at Cheshire East Council, who has been appointed as Deputy Chair. These strategic appointments mark an exciting new direction for iNetwork as we approach 2024.

In response to her appointment, Alison expressed her enthusiasm, stating:

“I’m delighted and honored to join the iNetwork team. I have been an advocate of iNetwork for many years, and my organisation, Wigan Council, has always been actively engaged in the network. I look forward to growing and developing iNetwork bringing fresh ideas to the table with the support of the executive board.”

Both Alison and Sarah bring extensive expertise to their respective roles, drawing from their backgrounds in the local public sector. Alison boasts over three decades of public sector experience, culminating in her appointment as Chief Executive of Wigan Council in 2019. During her tenure, Wigan Council garnered national recognition for its outstanding partnership initiatives with citizens and communities, earning double accolades in the LGC Awards 2022 and securing the prestigious title of LGC Council of the Year in 2019.

Likewise, Sarah has amassed nearly two decades of senior-level experience within various local authorities, showcasing her proficiency in change management across diverse sectors, including the legal arena, the NHS, and both central and local government. Prior to her current role as Director of Policy and Change at Cheshire East Council, Sarah served as the assistant director of Communities at St Helens Council. Notably, she played a pivotal role in the TIPS programme, contributing valuable insights and expertise before assuming her position as deputy chair.

The search for a permanent chair began after former Tameside Council Chief Executive Steven Pleasant stepped down in the summer of 2022. During the interim period, Phil Swan, Director of Digital at Greater Manchester Combined Authority, a longstanding member and supporter of iNetwork, assumed the role of Chair. Phil’s steadfast leadership and guidance ensured that iNetwork continued to deliver a high level of output and meet members’ needs over the last 18 months. We extend our gratitude to Phil for his dedicated interim chairmanship, ensuring continuity and excellence during a pivotal period.

While Phil Swan will no longer serve as the chair, his ongoing commitment to iNetwork remains evident. He will continue to play a central role as the chair of iNetwork’s sister organisation, iStandUK, and will retain his position on the iNetwork Executive Board.

iNetwork is poised for an exciting journey with the recent appointments of Alison and Sarah. Their wealth of experience and leadership will undoubtedly steer iNetwork toward new heights as we look to update our programme priorities in the New Year.