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CGI of busy city multimodal transport

Ian Richardson

Ian is the Key Account Director for Place at Costain. He has a strong background in local government, having previously worked for various councils as an engineer and transportation manager. Ian believes that strategic interventions can improve public safety and benefit communities up and down the UK. He also believes in giving back to the community and works as the Chair of Governors at his old school.

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Key Account Director, Place

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Business development

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Business improvement
Stakeholder engagement

About Ian

Ian joined Costain three years ago as Key Account Director for Place. In his role, Ian offers a dedicated end-to-end service to our customers. This is a blended service which draws on our consulting, digital and construction capability, and our unrivalled experience to deliver the most complex of projects. Local government faces a knotty set of challenges – challenging budgets, ambitious net zero targets, community wellbeing – and with Costain's skillset, we are well-placed to co-create bespoke solutions.

What led Ian to his career

People and good luck! When I was in my second year of university, I spent the summer on an industrial placement with Lancashire County Council, working on motorway and trunk road projects. The area has a history of big, transformational road projects such as the M6, which was opened by Harold Macmillan. I was gripped – I loved this style of learning – and it sparked a real interest in me. Once I graduated, I wanted to be back in this kind of environment and my first job was as an engineer, designing road projects for Calderdale Metropolitan Borough Council. I really cut my teeth in this job and started to learn the skills which set me up for my career: not just the technical side but also stakeholder engagement and communication. Achieving political and social acceptance for one of my early road projects, Tyne Road traffic calming scheme, was very challenging and a great education in making the case for change to politicians and communities.

Having caught the local government bug, I then went on to work at Hyndburn District Council and Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council. I was fascinated by the intricacies of how local government worked and was fortunate to experience it at county, metropolitan and borough levels. I was recruited to Blackburn when it became a unitary authority and within a year, I was managing its transportation team. Blackburn is my home town, and this was a real passion project for me. I was a key part of decision-making, helping to translate policy and strategy ambitions into long-term interventions which benefitted local people. Over the years, I worked on a range of projects from road improvements to flood alleviation works – and even the odd bandstand!

My first foray into the private sector came when Capita was commissioned to deliver local government services in Blackburn. For the first time, I had a portfolio of customers, first in the North West and West Yorkshire, and then nationally. I loved the dynamism of this role and the feeling I was really making a difference. We grew the account so that we were able to offer customers a wide range of services, from architecture and design to environmental science, consents and engineering. And I discovered something new about myself – I really enjoyed listening to customers’ challenges and trying to help them resolve them.


How Ian's role contributes to improving people's lives

When I started out at Calderdale Metropolitan Borough Council, the road safety schemes we delivered meant that lives were saved. There’s nothing better than that. Throughout my early career, I was focused on strategic interventions which improved public safety, including road safety engineering, flood alleviation schemes, municipal amenities and accessibility initiatives. Relatively minor engineering modifications can have a huge impact. The work of councils improves peoples’ lives in communities up and down the UK.

Giving back to my local community is very important to me. I am now back at my old school as Chair of Governors and striving to close the prosperity gap by forging close links between the school and local businesses. Better cooperation creates massive opportunities for young people. We’re already seeing the impact of this engagement which is of mutual benefit. For me, it’s essential that we help build young people’s confidence and giving them access to new skills, on-the-job training and apprenticeships is a huge part of that.

I work closely with Jeremy Galpin, with whom I share this deep conviction that we can leverage investment in infrastructure to transform lives.


Ian on the biggest challenge for local government professionals

Local authorities carry a heavy burden of responsibility for services that we all use – and perhaps, at times, take for granted. There’s a shortage of skilled workers and less opportunity these days to build an in-house career in local government. Budgets are under more pressure than ever before, and the scope of services managed by local authorities is vast. On top of that, salaries are higher in the private sector and those that deliver these fundamental services often feel unappreciated, so recruitment and retention are difficult.


Ian on how he thinks these challenges can be overcome

The public and private sectors need to adopt a team of teams model and work more closely together to achieve shared goals. After all, transport, education, health; these things matter to us all.

However, there are a few things that need to change first. There needs to be a willingness on both sides for solutions and partnerships to be shared. The scale of the challenges we face, particularly climate change, are bigger than any one organisation or sector.

I also believe that embracing technology, and particularly digital and automated processes, will enable local authorities to maximise the impact of the resources at their disposal. With a less risk-averse approach, they can focus their people’s time on projects where they can really add value and allow repetitive tasks to be delivered efficiently.

And while there’s absolutely a role for the private sector, it needs to learn from the past and consider why outsourcing went out of fashion. I think that the private sector needs to show empathy for the complexity experienced by local authorities and to invest more in the fabric of our communities, while the public sector needs to remain open to the insights the private sector has to offer.


Ian's top tips for a successful career in local government

You can't go wrong if you:

  1. Do the right thing
  2. Are always honest
  3. Are nice to people

Connect with Ian on LinkedIn or alternatively send him an email.

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