Tim Oliver and Rachael Wardell

King’s Gongs for Surrey leaders


Tim Oliver, Conservative Leader of Surrey County Council and Rachael Wardell, Executive Director of Children, Families and Lifelong Learning at Surrey County Council have both been awarded OBEs in The King’s Birthday Honours list 2024. Mr Oliver receives his Honour as Councillor and Leader for services to Local Government, and Rachael Wardell for services to children’s social care.

Commenting on his Honour, Tim Oliver said: “I’m delighted that the King recognises so many people’s contribution to public service in this way, and it’s an honour to receive an award. During the last six years as Leader of Surrey County Council nothing could have been achieved without the dedication and skill of those colleagues who put public service at the heart of everything they do. So, I’d like to say a big thank you to all those who have supported me, and to the people of Surrey who I’ve had the privilege of leading in this great county.”

Commenting on her Honour, Rachael Wardell said: “I was pleased and touched to be honoured in this way. As with any kind of public service, any of the achievements or successes attributed to me are really the work of dozens, if not hundreds of people, pulling together in the interests of children and their families, so I am grateful to all the teams I have been privileged to work with over the years whose skills and strengths are reflected in this recognition.”  

Joanna Killian, Chief Executive of the LGA and former Chief Executive of Surrey County Council, said: “I’m delighted to see that Tim has been recognised in the King’s Birthday Honours. That recognition is hugely deserving for an exemplary and dedicated public servant. Tim is a shining example of the very best of local government leadership.”

“I’m also hugely proud of Rachael Wardell to be honoured with an OBE. Rachael has always been totally focused on delivering the very best for children under her care and Surrey is lucky to have such a strong and skilled Director of Children’s Services.”

In relation to Rachael’s OBE, Michael Coughlin, Interim Chief Executive of Surrey County Council said: “On behalf of everyone at Surrey County Council, I would like to extend our heartfelt congratulations to Rachael. Her exceptional leadership and dedication to public service throughout her career has been unwavering.

Rachael has played a critical role in the lives of children in a number of Councils, including at Surrey, which has been recognised in the award of this thoroughly deserved OBE in the King’s Birthday Honours.

In relation to Tim’s OBE, Simon Edwards, Chief Executive of the County Councils Network (CCN) said: “On behalf of the County Councils Network, I would like to congratulate Tim on this richly deserved honour; a recognition of his many achievements in a long career in local government.

“Having served on both Elmbridge Borough Council and Surrey County Council – becoming leader in 2017 – Tim has worked tirelessly to champion Surrey for over two decades. As chairman of the County Councils Network since 2021, Tim has been a strong advocate for improving local services for the 26m people who live in county and rural areas.”

Tim Oliver career history
Tim has been an Elmbridge Borough or Surrey County councillor for nearly 25 years. He took on the role of leader of Surrey County Council in 2018 at a challenging time for the organisation and embarked on a wholescale transformation project with the Chief Executive that has provided financial stability, leadership across Surrey and had a clear positive impact on residents.

Formerly CEO and then Deputy Chairman of a legal and professional services business, Tim was extensively involved in driving operational delivery and business development. He is a qualified solicitor and the author of three legal text books. 

He has held many non-executive roles including on a wide range of not-for-profit boards. Tim is actively involved in the Charity sector as Vice President and previous Chair of Shooting Star Children’s Hospices and Chair of the Weybridge Land Charity.

He is currently the Chair of the County Councils Network and Chair of the Surrey Heartlands Integrated Care Board.

Rachael Wardell career history
Rachael Wardell has held the position of Executive Director of Children, Families and Lifelong Learning at Surrey County Council since 2020 and is currently also the Vice President of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS). In addition, Rachael is the Executive Director sponsor for Surrey County Council’s internal network for ethnically diverse staff.

Rachael has dedicated her career to helping those most in need with nearly 30 years of public service, having previously served as Director of Children’s Services in the London Borough of Merton, and as both Director of Children’s Services and Director of Adult Social Services at West Berkshire Council, and she also held posts at Wokingham Borough Council and Ofsted. Rachael’s background in children’s services began in Early Years inspection and regulation and one of her happy places will always be a daycare setting or a reception classroom.

Before becoming Vice President of ADCS in 2024, Rachael, at various times, was also a Board Member/Trustee of The Staff College, Skills for Care and Become (the charity for children in care and young care leavers). 

During her time at Surrey County Council, Rachael has driven significant improvement in children’s services which was recognised by Ofsted in a recent focused visit. Balancing the other professional demands on her, Rachael spends as much time as possible meeting children, families, schools and staff to hear their experiences and shape services with their best interests and outcomes at heart.

Image: Buckingham Palace licence details Tim Oliver and Rachael Wardell SCC

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