Board Members

Championing the North East

Board Members

lep-paul woolstonPaul Woolston – Chair

As former Senior Partner at Price Waterhouse Cooper (PwC), Paul’s expertise is in the public sector, focussing on high visibility issues such as health, local government and education. Paul continues to be closely involved with the business community and government, here in the North East, nationally and internationally.

As business leaders, we must pass on the skills we learn; it’s as simple as that. I’m proud to say that the North East excels at this. We’re a community of entrepreneurial minds who show commitment and loyalty to our region.

Andrew Hodgson – Vice Chair

As Chief Executive Officer of Soil Machine Dynamics (SMD), Andrew is a leader in subsea engineering and in recent years has been awarded three Queen’s Awards for Industry. He’s currently Chair of Subsea North East, a board member of Subsea UK, Trust Board member for the International Centre for Life. He has also been awarded as North East Business Exec of the year, EY Entrepreneur of the Year and EEF’s UK manufacturing champion.

The singularly most important thing for either an individual or a whole economy is to have the best level of skill within the required fields. The North East Strategic Economic Plan demonstrates our requirements and we must now ensure our people have the right skills to benefit themselves and the region as a whole.

simon henigCouncillor Simon Henig – Vice Chair

Locally, Councillor Henig is Chair of the Combined Authority, Leader of Durham County Council, Chair of the County Durham Partnership and Vice Chair of the Association of North East Councils. Nationally, he is a lead member on the Culture, Tourism and Sport Board of the Local Government Association and a member of Labour’s National Policy Forum. Councillor Henig is also Principal Lecturer in politics at Sunderland University and an accomplished author on the same subject.

The North East LEP is brings together people who all strive for the same exceptional standards. There’s a lot of faith in the North East and a lot of skills to be sourced.

Kromek board members.Arnab Basu

As Chief Executive Officer of Kromek Group Plc, Arnab has gained vast personal experience in how to effectively source and achieve private equity funding and business growth. His determined, focused and targeted approach to business is now invaluable help which he can pass on.

We can always achieve more than we first expect. Innovative thinking is as much about self-belief, as it is about funding the project itself.


Michael bellamyMichael Bellamy

After 13 years working at ICI, in sales and marketing, Michael spent time in Florence as General Manager of Marketing and Communications, before accepting the role of General Manager at PII Pipeline Solutions.

The North East LEP is about pooling resources – practical, financial, experiential – and then gifting those resources back into the economic development of the North East. The strong businesses now, will be the foundation for strong businesses in the future; and so on.


David LandDavid Land

David has recently left his role with Gestamp Tallent having spent 26 years helping the company grow and develop into a major player in the automotive sector.  Using his extensive experience he is actively involved with many business groups to promote and support the growth of the manufacturing in the North East. He has also been involved in gaining approval for the first University Technical College in the region and a strong supporter of getting young people into engineering.  

Apprenticeships went out of fashion for a long time and they never should have. Hands-on learning is invaluable and we simply must support this as an integral part of the future of the North East.

Gillian hallGillian Hall

Gillian was the first female Senior Partner at Watson Burton LLP, a national law firm with offices in Newcastle, Leeds and London. Now retired from Watson Burton, where she was national head of corporate law for many years, Gillian is a highly respected contributor to private and public sector organisations across the region. Gillian does this through angel investments and non-executive directorships, which include the Port of Blyth, Arch the Northumberland Development Company. Gillian is also a longstanding CBI Regional Councillor and a member of the Entrepreneurs’ Forum.

Helping the right people at the right time in the right way is integral to business growth and economic stability. It takes a lot of co-ordination, which is why leadership in innovation is one of the fundamentals that we absolutely have to get right.

Jeremy Middleton photoJeremy Middleton, CBE

As Director of Middleton Enterprises Ltd, Jeremy’s work focuses on property and Business Angel Investment across the North East including investments across a range of sectors including manufacturing, environmental, digital media and property trading. After a career in brand development with Procter & Gamble and PwC, he co-founded HomeServe PLC.  He is also a Board member of Utilitywise PLC.

Financial backing of people, projects and businesses is essential to the future of the North East. The clarity of vision required for this to be effectively implemented has to be shared across so many people… but the North East is getting this right and progressing in an impactful way.

edit_Gill SouthernGill Southern MBE

As well as being Commercial Director and Co-Owner of Wessington Cryogenics, Gill is also on the Board of NOF Energy and is a long term member of the North East Chamber of Commerce. In 2011, Gill was awarded an MBE for her services to North East Industry.

Supporting local business is a rewarding part of my job because investing in them and helping to remove barriers to growth such as access to finance, skills and promoting best practise generally leads to increased productivity and competitiveness, which is fantastic for the North East and UK economy.   There’s a huge amount of pride in the North East and this creates an environment for self-perpetuating growth.


Paul varley 2
Paul Varley

Paul’s past experience ranges from CEO of Newcastle Falcons to Managing Director of Carillion Energy Services. Paul mentors numerous businesses in the North East.

Supporting business with finance is clearly vital, but passing on experience and guiding those who are – after all – our future, is equally important. We have to learn from past successes and errors in order to know how to become stronger.

Grant daveyCouncillor Grant Davey

With vast experience across a variety of public sector work, Councillor Davey remains an active, hands-on contributor to the community. Councillor Davey is leader of the Labour Group at Northumberland County Council and has seen many changes in the area. He remains conscientiously involved.

It’s important to have effective spokespersons for a community, in order to get clarity and consistency of message. This is a key issue when it comes to making prompt and effective changes.

Nick forbesCouncillor Nick Forbes

Since 2011, Councillor Forbes has held the position of Leader of Newcastle City Council. He is also Chair of North East Transport, Vice Chair of Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Authority and Chair of FRESH, the campaign for a Smoke Free North East. Councillor Forbes’ interest in health issues stems from his NHS training and he’s also Chief Executive of Involve North East a regional health charity.

Physically connecting the North East to the rest of the business world is an incredibly important part of our overall economic strategy. We also become inviting to the businesses world when we can promise such easy and sustainable transport internally.

Mick henryCouncillor Mick Henry CBE

Mick is Vice-Chair of the Combined Authority and has been Leader of Gateshead Council since 2002, representing inner city ward Saltwell since 1986. He chairs Gateshead Strategic Partnership and Diversity Forum. Formerly a Senior Lecturer in Photography at Northumbria University, Mick is a member of Arts Council North and a Board Member of BALTIC, Sage Gateshead and Live Theatre. He is a Non Executive Director of Gateshead NHS Foundation Trust and a member of the Court of Newcastle University.

We know that by working together we can achieve a great deal more than by working alone. I am convinced that by making the most of a range of experiences, skills and perspectives we can achieve even more for the North East in the future.

iain malcomCouncillor Iain Malcolm

Councillor Malcolm’s has been a member of South Tyneside Council since 1988 and Leader since 2008. He chairs the Board of Newcastle International Airport, is a Member of the South Tyneside Foundation Trust, Chair of the South Tyneside Health and Wellbeing Board and a Member of the LGA Community Wellbeing Board. Professionally he is Deputy Chair of Sovereign Strategy.

The North East is a great place to do business and has exceptional potential and opportunities to grow

NormaElected Mayor Norma Redfearn

Mayor Redfearn was elected as Mayor of North Tyneside in 2013, which is testament to her commitment and dedication to the area. Mayor Redfearn has always served her community, from Cabinet Member of Children, Young People and Learning; to national representative for primary schools. Mayor Redfern was also the recipient of the Prize for Public Leadership in 1997 by the office of Public Management.

From children to older people, the community is a diverse array of contributors who we must look after through every stage of their lives. We do this by seeing the community as the heart of the North East’s development and treating them with the respect they deserve.

Paul watsonCouncillor Paul Watson 

Councillor Paul Watson became Leader of Sunderland City Council in May 2008, after previously serving as Deputy Leader since May 2006. Prior to that, he was Portfolio Holder for Regeneration and Community Cohesion. Made redundant in 1981, he has been a self-employed businessman ever since.  Councillor Watson has an Honours Degree in Law awarded by Teesside University in 1998. The Leader of the Council, as leader of the controlling majority political group, chairs the Cabinet and acts as the Council’s lead political spokesman. He is also Chair of the Port of Sunderland Board, one of the leading North Sea ports.

Councillor Watson represents the City of Sunderland and the City Council at national and sub-national levels on a number of key organisations. He is an Executive Member of the Local Government Association; Vice Chair of the LGA City Regions Board; Chair of the National Key Cities Group; Chair of the Association of North East Councils; Member of the Combined Authority with the Economic Portfolio; Member of the Sunderland Economic Leadership Board; Member of the European Union’s Committee of the Regions, representing the UK delegation on the Economic and Social, and Education Committees. He also sits on the Board of the North East Local Enterprise Partnership and Sunderland Football Club Foundation.

It is important to invest in our region’s infrastructure so we are a fully connected region that both attracts new businesses and improves facilities for existing ones.

Peter FidlerProfessor Peter Fidler

Peter’s career has encompassed research and consultancy in both academic and professional posts. He is an active contributor to several development bodies in the North East and is President of Sunderland University.

Supporting innovative and forward-thinking projects, is the only way to move beyond the expected. Some areas are content to ‘keep-up’ but the North East has the ability to lead the way.

Anne isherwoodAnne Isherwood

Anne has always been closely linked to the sourcing, supporting and promotion of local skills with the aim of furthering the economic regeneration of the North East. Anne’s experience ranges from the hospitality profession to Principal at Sunderland College – all roles focus on delivering an outstanding quality of service; this has always been a paramount principle in everything that Anne puts her mind to.

We’re such a bright and vibrant area of the country, and we must continue to harness the natural skills and ambitions of our community. It starts with education and grows from there – the North East is a diverse melting pot of talent.