The new boss of Barrow Borough Council is coming up to her first month in the job.

Sam Plum, 51, has worked for councils big and small from the frontline to the boardroom.

Straight-talking with a get-up-and-go attitude, the keen outdoor swimmer took on the English Channel in 2014 and has ticked off 10.5-mile long Windermere.

Barrow’s issues may lead her into deep water occasionally, but the married mother-of-two says she is ready for her biggest challenge yet.

Local Democracy Reporter ELLIS BUTCHER reports.

Sam Plum puts me right. She does not want to be called Samantha.

“That’s what my mum calls me.”

Three weeks into her new role, she has already stayed on Barrow Island in the Maritime Apartments.

She said: “It’s been great, busy. I feel like a giant sponge. I am trying to soak in as much as I can of a new place.”

Her last job was as a director at Rossendale Borough Council in her native East Lancashire.

The step up, she says, is “exciting and a little bit scary” but Barrovians have been “unbelievably welcoming with real warmth”.

She loves the “beautiful” Barrow Town Hall, while her Victorian office reminds her of the “headmaster’s at Hogwarts!”.

She said: “It’s a fantastic building. I wish more people got the chance to see it and that we made more of it, because everywhere you are in Barrow, you can see the town hall clock.

“I haven’t got lost yet, you just look up and it’s there!”

Her arrival in Barrow to replace the well-liked former boss, Phil Huck, follows the local elections.

That has seen a new council leader, a new opposition leader and a mix of familiar and new faces returned to the 36-seat council chamber.

“We are all starting together,” she said. “I am starting at the start of a new four-year term and that feels really positive. It gives us a real chance to set our direction and be clear about what we want to achieve.”

Despite Government cuts, she described the council as being not far off “sustainable.”

“We have still got work to do, we will still have difficult decisions to make. As a workforce, we have shrunk quite a bit.

"You can’t keep taking out staff and not have services suffer. I think we’ve done a really good job of protecting frontline services.

"There’s a lot of people now working here who might have three different hats on, and I’m not sure numbers will need to reduce any more.

"But we might have to think about how we deliver services and potentially sharing with some of our neighbours.”

Her career in local councils suggests someone who enjoys being hands-on, in-touch with residents and passionate about partnerships.

Originally from Pendle, she has worked for councils in Coventry, Craven, Pendle and Bradford Metropolitan Council – one of the biggest in the country.

A regular visitor to the Lakes, she had never visited Barrow before, but got as far as Dalton, taking her two children to the zoo when they were younger.

Of how Barrow compares to what she had heard, she said: “I think probably the reputation of Barrow has not done it any favours.

"Outside of Cumbria, if people have heard of it at all, they’ve probably heard of it in connection with negative stuff rather than positive stuff. I think the reality is completely different. There are amazing things about this place.

"It’s a great place which feels like it’s on the up.”

“One of the things I am really conscious of is that we don’t shout about this place enough outside of the borough.

“We absolutely need to put Barrow back on the map. It’s the number one local authority in the country for natural assets. Places like Accrington and Nelson would snap our hands off to have the crime rates we have.”

If she had to compare Barrow to anywhere in East Lancashire, she can see similarities with Burnley.

“It’s a big, industrial town with a real kind of strong sense of identity and really strong local pride. Three weeks in, that pride has come across from so many people.”

“They say: “I’m from Barrow, I might have gone away, but I’ve come back again because I love it. I have had that from pretty much everyone I’ve spoken too.”

Economic development and growth is an “absolute priority” and “top of the list”. She said: “If you have jobs and good jobs, everything else flows from that.”

She is keen to work with South Lakeland and Lancaster City Council on the newly-created Bay economic region which could unlock major Government investment.

She said she wants Barrow in the running for grants.

She said: “The whole of the Bay area has to be seen as a place to invest, a place where good things are happening – where there’s space for new businesses and space for new houses.”

Of the town centre litter problems, she says: “I know there has been stuff that it’s dirty and that there’s litter everywhere.

"Actually, it’s really not. It feels like a really clean, well looked after place that people are really proud of.”

“That’s really important and really important for the council to keep that going and support people who really do care about this place.

"The town centre, keeping the town centre healthy and attracting more people into it is a big priority.”

“District councils have a really strong role in being leaders of a place. If we don’t fight for Barrow, no-one else is going to do it.”

On her wrist is a watch that can tell her how many miles she has swum.

She has managed a once-a-week dip in Windermere since starting the job and has been exploring the town after work.

She said: “The shipyard dominates the town and the skyline. The scale of it is huge and the impact it has on every bit of the borough has really taken me aback. The fact that everyone knows someone who works there – that presence is fantastic in loads of ways and I’m really interested in how we work with the shipyard as they are so important to us.”

Her job now, she says, is to “crack on and deliver…make a difference.”