North East to appoint jobs creation chief - but only on a short term basis

Long search for chief executive of North East Local Enterprise Partnership to continue after interim appointment

Paul Woolston
Paul Woolston

After a 10 month search a jobs creation chief is set to be appointed in the North East within the next month - but only on a short term basis.

The move follows growing criticism over the length of time it is taking to appoint someone full time and how it could be adversely affecting the region’s attempts to obtain more devolved powers like Greater Manchester and Yorkshire now have.

Now the North East Local Enterprise Partnership and North East Combined Authority (NECA) have taken the decision to put a temporary chief executive in place to lead the LEP through the next six months to continue its work investing in economic growth.

The news comes after it was revealed recently the permanent chief executive post was offered to an outstanding international candidate – but she eventually turned it down for personal reasons.

Announcing the latest appointment Paul Woolston, North East LEP Chair, said: “It is important that we make an interim appointment now to lead the LEP forward, at a crucial time for the local economy and following the General Election.

“It is frustrating and disappointing that we haven’t been able to make the permanent appointment we wished to make and that this process has taken so long. We understand the frustration that businesses must feel about the appointment process and we share those.

Simon Henig, leader of Durham County Council
Simon Henig, leader of Durham County Council

“We are working hard to secure the very best possible chief executive for the North East LEP, one with the proven leadership qualities, drive and passion that this post requires. This has taken far longer than we all had hoped but we will find and appoint the leader our region deserves as quickly as we can.”

Simon Henig, Chair of North East Combined Authority and Vice Chair of North East LEP, said: “We are all clear in our determination to appoint an outstanding chief executive, one that can take forward our bold economic agenda.

“We remain focussed on working together to complete the recruitment process and appoint a permanent chief executive of the calibre that the post requires to build on the momentum achieved to date to deliver long term economic growth.”

It is understood the NECA and NELEP both favour a trade commissioner to be chief executive.

Initial opposition to the individual being paid in excess of £150,000 is thought to have been resolved but whether or not the role will be jointly accountable to both groups is a stumbling block.

The authority had put forward Dave Smith, the current chief executive of Sunderland City Council, to act in the role on an interim basis, but the NELEP vetoed this move.

Hexham Conservative MP Guy Opperman said recently that company bosses must hold council leaders’ “feet to the fire” and play their part in seeing that this key post was filled.

He wanted the North East Chamber of Commerce to intervene to ensure the North East Combined Authority of seven local councils and the North East Local Enterprise Partnership reach an agreement on hiring someone for the top job.

However Labour MP Kevan Jones, warned the NELEP that it “cannot ride roughshod” over elected officials and Ian Mearns, the Labour MP for Gateshead, said that members of Ed Miliband’s party were regularly “frozen out” by the LEP.

Journalists

David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer