Council officers are normally happiest working away in the background, leaving councillors to stand in the glare of publicity.

Sue Wald, who has just retired as corporate director for adults’ social services, is no different – but she has also been leading the council’s effort in two of the biggest issues to face local government for years, one slowly growing, and one a sudden explosion.

Sue’s department is responsible for funding and providing social care for the elderly and otherwise vulnerable adults – those with physical and learning difficulties. The demands on councils across the country have been ever-growing and taking increasingly large parts of budgets – so much so that the prime minister announced a 1.25 per cent increase in National Insurance contributions for every working person to try and head off what is becoming something of a crisis.

The department also handles the council’s public health efforts – which came to the fore in March last year as Covid-19 became a global crisis.

On the afternoon of her last day at Euclid Street, Sue said: “It’s been a busy time. My job covers housing as well, and you try and keep across all of the job, but sometimes something takes a lot of your attention.

“I’m very proud of how we responded – not just here at the council but all the voluntary and community groups and parish councils in Swindon. The pandemic became such a big issue so quickly. People had to shield straight away and we had to respond. 

"People here set aside whet they’d been previously doing to just get on with it – although we also had to keep the normal services going as much as we could. It was very challenging, especially trying to move people on from hospital in a safe way, which we managed to do.”

She added: “I’ve always had  great colleagues; councillors, other directors and my team now – Mike Ash in housing, Steve Maddern in public health and Angela Plummer in social care have been brilliant.”

Looking back, Sue said the partnership with other sectors and the way the council interacts has been a great improvement: “In 2007 and 2008 it was all about contracts and contract management and transactional. Now we are partners with  the CAB and the Carers Centre, there are longer contracts which  allow them to plan and get more volunteers.”

And now Sue will be returning, in a way, to her first job. 

Before coming to Swindon, she worked in the voluntary sector with homeless young people – and as well as walking and rowing and enjoying time with her husband and three grown-up children, she is a volunteer for  Streetchild United.

She said: “We put on Streetchild world cups in the same place as the football and cricket world cups at the same time, so I’m involved in getting volunteers to help put on the 2022 Streetchild world cup in Doha. We need to get 24 teams from around the world.

“My sister noticed it before I did – I started working with homeless young people and I’m going back to it.”

More information on Streetchild United and its events is available at