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The Interview with Rhonda Leith

In the latest Staff Talk Interview segment, we take the opportunity to catch up with Rhonda Leith – the new Head of Service for Connected Communities, to find out more about her career journey, ambitions and her priorities for 2023.

Q: Welcome to North Ayrshire Council Rhonda! Is North Ayrshire your home turf?

A: Thank you, it’s great to be part of the team! I live in South Ayrshire – just along the road in Ayr – but grew up in North Ayrshire so familiar with Kilwinning and Irvine mainly as I went to Abbey Primary School and Kilwinning Academy, so I guess I am an alumni of our education system.

Q: Apart from work, do you spend much time here?

A: Absolutely. North Ayrshire is full of fantastic open green spaces. I love the coast and often visit Irvine Harbourside and Largs. Eglinton Country Park is also a place me and my family have enjoyed coming to since my girls were young – although, it wasn’t so fun last summer when we managed to get lost on one of the hottest days of the year. Thank goodness for the before-the-car ice cream at Tournament Café…

My daughters are not so young now, mind you. I have one 18 year old and a 23 year old. Hopefully by taking on this new challenge, I can be an inspiration to them.

“I have always wanted to change the world, I’ve accepted as I have got older that I might not change the world, but I may be able to change something a wee bit and make life better for somebody. I feel so very privileged to be working alongside people who share my ethics and values for doing what is right by local people and extended communities.”
Q: Is this your first time working in the public sector?

A: No. I’ve been working in the public sector for over 20 years now. My last job was in South Lanarkshire Council where I worked as a community engagement manager. I had responsibility for community development, all the engagement with third sector organisations and building better communities via community asset transfers, locality planning and developing SL’s tackling poverty remit. All my work was about partnership and pulling communities together via improving council priorities.

Q: What made you want to work with communities?

A: I started out at university – many moons ago (I’ll not tell you exactly when!) doing a Business degree. As the hours worked out well, I fell into sessional youth work part time and through this I realised that there was far more to community work than youth clubs and community centres.

To be honest, I didn’t know that community development workers existed and when I saw first-hand how they can bring about social change while improving the lives and communities, I knew it was exactly what I wanted to do. So, I progressed to doing adult literacy tutoring and then studied a Post Graduate in Community Education.

Q: What does your role as Head of Service for Connected Communities involve?

A: Alongside my talented team, I am responsible for overseeing, developing and delivering the Connected Communities Strategy for North Ayrshire. North Ayrshire residents are at the heart of what we do, so I am currently focused on working closely with colleagues to help communities achieve their dreams and empower them via funding opportunities such as accessing participatory budgeting or applying via the Community Investment Fund.

The work I have mentioned is all part of the Community Planning Partnership. Other key priorities include developing and delivering equality and anti-poverty strategies, promoting open democracy, and creating a collaborative network where communities can make their voices heard to drive real and lasting change across our six localities.

Raising the profile of our fantastic heritage and culture venues is also an important part of my remit – from Saltcoats Town Hall and Garrison House on Millport to the HAC in Irvine and supporting our network of dedicated Countryside Rangers at Eglinton Park and across North Ayrshire, there’s a host of brilliant facilities on our doorstep that make our area a vibrant and welcoming place to be.

Finally, Community Learning and Development and raising the profile of the helpful resources that can be found in our community venues and libraries is also a key focus. Phew – there’s a lot of fantastic work happening, and a lot still to do!

Q: Have the team made you feel welcome?

A: Most definitely. I feel so very privileged to be working alongside people who share my ethics and values for doing what is right by local people and extended communities.

I have always wanted to change the world, I’ve accepted as I have got older that I might not change the world, but I may be able to change something a wee bit and make life better for somebody. That’s exactly what our Service is all about too, I am in awe of the dedication, commitment, and drive that our colleagues have and look forward to working alongside them to make our mark this year.

Q: Any fun facts about yourself or claims to fame?

A: In my free time I rather enjoy crocheting, sewing and doing a bit of baking. I also used to be quite musical. Many years ago, I was in a ceilidh band – I played keyboard, a little rhythm guitar and once supported the Alexander Brothers. I also once performed at an open mic night in the HAC back in the day. I’m sure it was an acoustic cover of a Primal Scream Song that went down well. I’m a but rusty now though, so don’t even think about asking me to start a staff band!

Final thoughts…

Engagement is at heart of what we do as a Council and I too believe that by listening to the lived experience of residents and our colleagues who are out there working hard to make our communities better, that we can all make a real difference. I want to keep the dialogue open, so if anyone has any good ideas or if you’re from another service in the Council and would like to understand more about the work of Connected Communities please get in touch by emailing:

I look forward to working more closely with our incredible colleagues, including the ones I have heard so much about and have yet to meet. Being the new Head of Service is a great opportunity and a welcomed challenge and I can’t wait to see what this next chapter in North Ayrshire will hold.

Rhonda’s Priorities for 2023

  • Supporting residents through Cost-of-Living crisis;
  • Reducing the stigma of poverty via our Fairer Food larder network;
  • Community empowerment and capacity building via locality partnerships;
  • Generating revenue via the promotion of internal and external lets, such as new Lochshore facilities;
  • More adult learning opportunities including digital learning;
  • Encourage every child in North Ayrshire to become a library member;
  • Developing our Participation Strategy and learning from the lived experience of our residents;
  • Assessing the need/developing childcare options for school aged children;
  • Ensuring young people continue to be at heart of Council’s decision-making;
  • Continue to keep North Ayrshire firmly on Scotland’s Arts and Culture map;
  • Increasing KA Leisure membership/participation in health and wellbeing activities.
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