Message from Cllr Stephen Cowan, Leader of Hammersmith & Fulham
I am really sorry to report that Jo Rowlands sadly passed away yesterday (15 March) after a long illness.
Jo was our Strategic Director of Growth and Place from 2016-2020.
She was a friend and an admired colleague to all of us who worked with her. It is tragic she has died so young.
When she left Hammersmith & Fulham because of her deteriorating heath, I wrote this tribute:
“When, on Monday 15 August 2016 Jo Rowlands turned up to work at Hammersmith & Fulham, the lives and opportunities of tens of thousands of people across our borough got significantly better.
“The charmed combination of Jo’s detailed knowledge and intelligence, steady professionalism, and swashbuckling flair brought huge progressive change.
“Jo quickly launched our first-of-its-kind Industrial Strategy with Imperial College London putting us on a trajectory to become a global economic hotspot in STEM industries and digital media; she sorted out our housing management; she helped us deliver more genuinely affordable homes than ever before; she worked to end homeless rough sleeping making us amongst the best in the UK; and she stepped in and fixed the failed and costly former Town Hall carbuncle and gave us the new, stunning Civic Campus that will rejuvenate Hammersmith.
“Jo boosted the arts and launched our comedy festival; she developed the free breakfast policy for all school children; she took a kick-ass approach to property speculators and came up with development schemes that have the potential to significantly strengthen the council’s finances - which will counter the harsh austerity cuts in government funding.
“There’s so much Jo’s done in such a short amount of time during the three years, nine months she has been a key member of our team. But the trend-bucking, convention-challenging revolution Jo helped pull off in saving the West Kensington and Gibbs Green estates epitomises everything that makes her so special. Put simply, the two estates could not have been saved without Jo Rowlands.
“As with any success, there’s many vested interests claiming to have played a pivotal role in saving the 760 homes and stopping the social cleansing that was hard-wired into the demolition of the two estates. The estates were saved because Jo Rowlands helped formulate and implemented a creative strategy having put together a formidable team of lawyers and experts. Together, they ended a decade-long nightmare for the thousands of people on the West Kensington and Gibbs Green estates.
“Many residents will not know Jo Rowlands’ name. They won’t be aware of what she’s done for them or their children. I guess that’s par-for-the-course for a council officer. But if anyone asks, just tell them Jo Rowlands is brilliant. She really cares. That passion for social justice was front and centre every day she led Hammersmith & Fulham’s housing, regeneration, planning, economy, Upstream, and the arts teams. I am, and will remain, forever grateful.”
Jo made a huge contribution and I will always be grateful for her extraordinary work and wise counsel.
Next year we will move into the Civic Campus Jo helped create.
The flags flutter at half-mast outside our office. They are a sign of our abiding respect for Jo and a message of love to all her friends and family.