Updated Panellist Profiles for the upcoming CfGS Conference

Posted on 05/04/2023 by Megan Ingle.

Please find below the profiles of our panellists and chair for the panel at our upcoming conference. The conference is titled ‘Governance and scrutiny fit for the future’ – building public trust to meet the challenges facing local services’ Agenda.

Our panel topic is, ‘On the centrality of good governance to the future of local democracy and high quality local services’. 

You can purchase tickets for our conference by following this link: https://buytickets.at/centreforgovernanceandscrutiny/832319 

The full agenda, which will continue to be updated, can be found here: CfGS Annual Conference 2023 Agenda – Centre for Governance and Scrutiny


Cllr Abi Brown,Chairman of LGA Innovation and Improvement Board

Cllr Abi Brown was first elected to Stoke-on-Trent City Council in 2010 and was the Leader of the Council from May 2019 until May 2023, holding the Corporate Resources, Strategy & Partnerships portfolio.  Prior to 2019 she was Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Finance & Partnerships from May 2015.

Alongside her portfolio responsibilities, Abi has built her reputation on leading successful strategically important programmes, both within Stoke-on-Trent and also the wider sub-region. This includes the Ceramic Valley Enterprise Zone Project Board, one of the most successful EZs in the country and a project she has led since inception.  In recent months, she has also signed the first informal Homes England partnership in the country and is excited about working through the detail on this ambitious agenda.  Other past notable programmes include leading the city’s bid to be City of Culture 2021, refocusing the city council’s arms-length housing company, Fortior, during her tenure as chair, shortlisted for a Channel 4 Creative Hub, and developing the Creative City Partnership to bring together national partners around the creative agenda in the city.

At a regional level, she is a member of the Midlands Engine board, representing West Midlands Councils, in addition to representing Stoke-on-Trent & Staffordshire on the West Midlands Employers Board, and being a local authority representative on the Arts Council England Midlands Council.  An enthusiastic advocate of local government, Abi is an LGA peer mentor and has previously served as vice-chairman of the LGA City Regions Board between 2018 to 2022.  From September 2022 Abi became Chair of the LGA Improvement & Innovation Board. 

Keen to utilise her wide cross-sector expertise locally, Abi leads on a number of important agendas including chairing the Homelessness Reduction Board, Community Safety Partnership, and Health & Wellbeing Board, which she sees as providing the opportunity to bring together her experience and local success in regeneration and place-making, with services that focus more on improving residents’ everyday lives, such as education and skills, social care and, of course, homelessness.

A familiar speaker at regional and national events, Abi’s interests include all aspects of regeneration as well as broader policy development for urban areas, including Levelling Up.


Dr Polly Lord, Head of Local Public Services Research at New Local

Dr. Polly Lord is Head of Local Public Services Research at New Local. Having worked in central Government, Polly heads up our work on policy and research into local government and public services. With a particular interest in democratic legitimacy and participatory policy-making processes, Polly’s work focuses on finding opportunities for public service reform through the lens of “community power”.

Rachel McKoy, Director of Law and Governance and President-elect, London Borough of Hounslow Council and Lawyers in Local Government

As a senior leader with substantial governance and commercial experience, Rachel possess a practical appreciation of local government law, the nuance of working within a political environment, and the general public sector context.

Rachel is immensely passionate about promoting and supporting the work of the lawyers in our sector, which she unapologetically champions through her current roles as the Director, Vice President and National Expert for Planning, Highways and Environmental Law for Lawyers in Local Government and Non-Executive Director to the Solace Board. This has built upon her former role of Chief Projects Assessor for the Diploma in Local Government Law and Practice (2016-19) and current Law Society Academic Board Member positions.

Throughout her career, Rachel has both led, developed, and curated in-house legal teams with a strong focus upon on complex strategic schemes, estate regeneration, capital delivery and infrastructure projects. This has provided a clear insight into the pressures and requirements for strong governance arrangements and importance of the Monitoring Officer function.

Catherine Howe, Chief Executive of Adur and Worthing Councils and Chair of CfGS

Dr Catherine Howe is the Chair of the Centre for Governance and Scrutiny and is an expert in digital innovation, focusing on the area of digital democracy and social change.

She has a background which connects together technology, community and social change and has worked across a number of different sectors. She was CEO of a successful SME, Public-i Group Ltd, before moving to Capita to redevelop Capita’s digital transformation approach, and then to Cancer Research UK to lead work on technology strategy and transformation.

She has worked with new collaborative technologies and social networking tools for over 15 years. Initially developing learning applications, including one of the first eLearning community sites, at the London Business School, she was founder director of Etribes.com – an online community consultancy which specialised in working with large third sector organisations.

She is now Chief Executive of Adur and Worthing Councils, a role she took up from her substantive role of Director for Communities which she describes as helping communities direct themselves. Her research interests cover digital civic space, citizenship and systems linking and she is both a Trustee of the Centre for Governance and Scrutiny and a Governor of the Democratic Society.

You can find out more on her blog (http://www.curiouscatherine.info), and her linked in profile (https://uk.linkedin.com/in/curiousc)