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John Sinnott - Doctor of Laws - Chief Executive of Leicestershire County Council

Oration by Professor Gordon R Campbell

John Sinnott is chief executive of Leicestershire County Council, and also serves as Clerk of the Lieutenancy. As Chief Executive he oversees a budget approaching a billion pounds a year, of which more than half goes to education in schools. In the view of the Audit Commission, the Council that John Sinnott runs is a top performer offering good value for money for a range of services. In the same year that our Vice-Chancellor led this University to the accolade of University of the Year, John Sinnott led his Council to the parallel honour of Council of the Year. The Audit Commission, Ofsted and the new Care Quality Commission are not known for giving those whom it inspects an easy ride, but under John Sinnott’s leadership these bodies have declared Leicestershire to be performing well in areas such as educational attainment, children’s services, road safety, waste recycling and crime reduction.

These successes have not been achieved in the easiest of conditions. Much of John Sinnott’s job is done in the public eye, including his work with elected Councillors who do not always see eye to eye. Indeed, during his tenure of office John has worked with twelve political leaders of Council in single-party administrations, in coalitions and in politically hung councils. He has been in post since 1994, and is now the country’s longest serving County Council Chief Executive. His national standing has been reflected in his membership of the National Council of the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives, his chairmanship of the Association of County Chief Executives and his membership of the government’s ‘High Level Officials Group’, which ensures that individual councils can learn from best practice and not be constantly obliged to reinvent the wheel.

The other part of John Sinnott’s job is ‘Clerk of the Lieutenancy’, which is a slightly puzzling phrase. What it means in practice is that he provides support for our Lord Lieutenant, Lady Gretton [who is with us today], and for her Vice Lord-Lieutenant and Deputy Lieutenants. The Lord-Lieutenant may appoint whichever ‘person of standing and integrity’ she wishes to be Clerk of the Lieutenancy. John Sinnott has the standing that comes with his job as Chief Executive, but the integrity is the quality that he brings to that job. When we are honoured with a royal visit, most recently the visit of Her Majesty the Queen eighteen months ago, the complex arrangements are the responsibility of Lady Gretton and John Sinnott. That visit, which included the opening of this university’s wonderful new Library, was flawlessly organized.

John Sinnott is a formidable champion of Leicestershire, but alongside this resolute support for a county comes a passion for his native city of Liverpool. He is a graduate of the University of Liverpool, and worked for many years for Liverpool City Council and then Merseyside County Council, working with local and national politicians at a time dominated by inner-city riots and Government intervention. Beyond these formal links, there is another passion that shows John Sinnott’s colours, and they are not red. The hint lies in his Who’s Who entry, one part of which invites the entrant to list his clubs. John’s club, he declares, is Everton Football Club. Indeed, he is a season ticket holder and a shareholder who has served as Chairman of his club’s Shareholders’ Association. John’s other visible Liverpool interest is in the history of rock music, as befits a man whose youth was spent in the City where so much of it began, although he personally traces the history back to the Elvis Presley 'Sun' recordings between 1953 and 1955.

John Sinnott’s second sporting passion is cricket, and in this instance he has transferred some allegiance from Old Trafford to Grace Road, serving for six years as Chairman of the Leicestershire Cricket Board. These sporting interests begin as those of a player and a fan, but John’s capacity to manage and to formulate policy means that he is soon brought on to the Board of any sporting enterprise with which he is associated. He has expertise in sports policy as well as sport, so part of his work for the 2012 Olympics, which includes representing local authorities on the 2012 regional steering group, is concerned with the legacy of the Olympics. In this capacity he is working to ensure that young people are the beneficiaries of that legacy, and that in the wake of the Olympics there will be a greater awareness of the relationship between sport, health and well-being.

The City of Leicester is administratively separate from the county, but the two work together in partnership initiatives. John Sinnott’s role in these activities shows that his interest in well-being extends beyond sport to issues such as community safety and drug and alcohol abuse. In all of these enterprises John is conscious of the need to contain costs and to spend efficiently, and again he has combined his interest in practicalities with an attention to policy, in this case working closely with the Treasury on issues of financial and democratic accountability. This year, in the New Years Honours List his leadership in these and many other areas led to the award of the CBE for services to local government.

These accomplishments are all in the public domain, but John Sinnott also works quietly to support causes and institutions about which he feels strongly. That strong feeling extends to this University, for which John Sinnott has provided strong support over many years.

Mr Chancellor, on the authority of the Senate and the Council, I present John Brian Sinnott, that you may confer upon him the degree of Doctor of Laws.

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