Exclusive interview: Letchworth Heritage Foundation’s John Lewis

WITH redundancies expected at Letchworth Garden City Heritage Foundation as part of a new three stage plan, reporter Nick Gill spoke exclusively with chief executive John Lewis about what the future holds for the organisation.

Speaking at the Heritage Foundation’s new headquarters in Icknield Way, Mr Lewis shared his thoughts on a number of subjects including the town’s people, the option of selling land, and the organisation’s vision.

NG: How have you found your first eight months in the job?

JL: Fascinating, exciting and quite tiring. It’s been great.

NG: You’ve called stage two ‘organisational development’ What does that mean?

JL: We’ve given ourselves a 12-month period to really look at what we do to ensure it’s for the benefit of everyone in Letchworth GC. It’s not a cost-cutting exercise, it’s asking what can we do for our charitable commitments but for the right reasons.

Stage one is really hard as it’s going to affect people’s jobs but stage two is exciting because we want to do things better. This might be finding out if we can offer more services at the day hospital or show less mainstream films at the cinema. It’s asking those types of questions.

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NG: How do you think the Foundation is perceived?

JL: A lot of people are not sure exactly what the Foundation does. I’m really intent to get out there and understand why this is and what we need to do so they get the full story.

Our property portfolio secures the funds to support our charitable commitments - which is our job and what we’re about. That message has got a little confused over time. The property side of things is a means to achieve that. It’s always been like that but we’re not sure that people have understood it.

NG: What do you make of the Letchworth GC public?

JL: There’s a massive amount of personal pride that really does come across and that’s a massive benefit for any town. People are not slow in coming forward with their views and that’s what I want.

NG: What are your thoughts on business in the town?

JL: I think there’s a lot of work to do to bring back business to the town. We need to know ‘what’s the Letchworth offer’? Something people are raising is they haven’t got a place to go to share ideas, share recruitment and services. That could be possible through the Foundation if we create a tenants’ network, as we already have contact with them as a landlord.

NG: Will the Foundation consider selling land?

JL: Our property’s value is about �110m. If we sold a bit of that it doesn’t help protect our income. We are spending more than we are bringing in so we are finding areas to be more efficient - it’s planning for the future. We’re thinking in the long-term.

NG: What is ‘one foundation’?

JL: I hope that every member of staff can be really proud to work here and are proud to say they work for the Foundation. At times the organisation is working as individual services and not necessarily as a whole. It’s working together for the good of the town.