Q&A Bala Mahendran Chief Executive of Basildon
PUBLISHED: 09:40 20 December 2010 | UPDATED: 15:56 20 February 2013
Discovering why Basildon is a great place to do business
What does your role as chief executive of Basildon District Council entail?
Local councillors have set an ambitious agenda for the council, covering regeneration, environmental improvement and community enhancement. I'm in charge of delivering these objectives, running day-to-day services and managing the council's resources with an annual gross expenditure of 170m and more than 1,000 employees.
How long have you been based in Basildon?
I came to Basildon in 2001 when I joined the authority as an executive director for housing and personal services. I've been in my current role as chief executive for more than four years.
Why did you choose Basildon?
I chose Basildon because the council has an ambitious and challenging agenda. It's also an exciting place to be. The district has 2billion of regeneration opportunities; it's at the heart of the Thames Gateway, 30 minutes from the London Olympics and next door to plans for Europe's largest deep-water port, the London Gateway. It's one of the UK's most competitive business locations with more than 3,800 companies and yet has more parks and green open space than any other authority in Essex.
What do you love about your job?
I like the variety. I could be talking to developers about a multi-million pound regeneration opportunity one instant, and looking at issues that concern individuals, such as homelessness, the next. It's the feeling of making a difference to both individual lives and the future of the district as a whole. I also like managing people and developing their potential. It gives me a buzz to open doors for people and see them grow and develop.
What do you have planned to celebrate the 60th anniversary of Basildon?
We've already started our celebrations, holding a formal event to mark 60 years since the birth of Basildon new town on January 4. We are now organising a series of community celebrations throughout the year, including the Basildon Festival, which regularly attracts more than 40,000 people over two days, and a weekend of music in Lake Meadows featuring a concert by Katherine Jenkins on July 25.
How would you like to see Basildon develop in the future?
We want to take the best from our past to mould the future. Our plans include the 1billion regeneration of Basildon town centre, the 200m redevelopment of Wickford and the construction of a 35m sporting village. Our ambition is to turn the district into a leading location to live, work, play and do business.
What has been the proudest moment in your career so far?
Securing my current role. I arrived in England in 1975 to pursue my studies as an undergraduate in mechanical engineering. Some 18 years after starting my first job, I became chief executive of Basildon Council. I feel very privileged and honoured to be in such
a trusted position.
Tell us about your family?
I'm married to Rosita who works in banking. I also have two sons, one who is studying a double honours in philosophy and theology, and the other doing his A-levels. My own siblings are scattered in Canada, Australia and Malaysia.
What are your hobbies?
Cricket is one of my biggest passions outside the office. I also enjoy the theatre, concerts and travelling to far-flung places.
What is your worst habit?
My wife tells me I'm impatient, and my children agree. I also expect highly of others and have exacting standards.
What is your favourite piece of music?
My all-time favourite piece of music is Hotel California by The Eagles. It brings back memories of my teenage years and nostalgia of growing up in Sri Lanka when it was a less troubled place,
and those balmy nights having house parties.