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Paul Woolston, who has led the North East LEP since its formation nearly five years ago, is to leave his post together with several colleagues in a number of changes to the board.

Paul, a former senior partner at Price Waterhouse Coopers, has led the LEP board as chair since the organisation was created in 2011. He will formally leave his post as chair at the next LEP board meeting on January 28 when his replacement will be announced.

Under his successful leadership, the North East LEP has:

• Delivered the North East Independent Economic Review led by Lord Adonis. This allowed the LEP to formulate the Strategic Economic Plan setting out how to achieve the economic growth needed to deliver 100,000 new and better jobs over the next decade

• Secured £1.5bn in central Government and European funding to finance new economic growth

• Retained the crucial £120m JEREMIE 2 business support fund in the North East, to be invested exclusively into scores of new and growing North East companies

• Successfully bid for two Enterprise Zones covering a total of 20 sites across the region. The first zone has created more than 1,200 new jobs to date, with a lot more to come, and the second zone is anticipated to deliver a further 14,000 jobs.

• Appointed the North East’s first innovation director – acclaimed entrepreneur and business leader Hans Moller – to oversee the investment of £125m to support creativity and dynamism in the region’s growing business base

• Established effective public-private sector advisory boards to stimulate innovation, business growth and skills development

• Created the North East Growth Hub – the comprehensive online resource for business advice, funding information, networking, news and events.

Paul said now was the time to stand down from his post and make way for a new chair.

“The timing is right for a new chair to lead the North East LEP forward at an exciting time in its development and for the region,” said Paul.

“We are entering a new year with a devolution deal for the North East agreed with Government and the combined authority, which will mean a new role for the LEP.”

Three further business board members will also step down as part of the LEP’s plan to stagger its board member leaving and replacement process, keeping experienced members in place to support newcomers.

Businesswoman Gill Southern stepped down from the LEP board just before Christmas, while Michael Bellamy and Arnab Basu will also leave the board as soon as replacement members are recruited.

As part of a rotation of duties, Northumbria University Vice-Chancellor Andrew Wathey and Jon Vincent, Principal and Chief Executive of TyneMet College, have both recently been appointed to the board to replace Anne Isherwood and Peter Fidler.

Paul added: “I would like to thank our business board members who have all really made a difference to what the LEP does, as well as Edward Twiddy and Helen Golightly for their executive leadership.

“Their intellect, innovation and energy means we have been able to turn a great strategy into great decision-making for the North East economy.

“Strong business representation is crucial to the long-term success of the North East LEP and I would urge businesspeople to help shape the region’s future by applying for a place on the board.

“I am genuinely proud of what we have achieved. Initiating the Adonis Review enabled us to produce the Strategic Economic Plan for the region.

“It is absolutely transformational and it is being adopted and embedded in the region to drive future economic success.

“The North East LEP has attracted an enormous amount of funding, £1.5bn, which is being allocated now to implement the Strategic Economic Plan.

“Our challenge now as a region is to eliminate the persistent economic gap between ourselves and other regions of the UK.”

Andrew Hodgson, North East LEP Vice Chair, said: “Under Paul’s leadership, the North East LEP has secured significant funding from Europe and Government to underpin vital economic development.

“He has helped build and establish the LEP in a changing political landscape and worked hard with the most senior levels of Government to ensure the North East’s Strategic Economic Plan is understood and supported.”

Arnab Basu said “It has been a privilege to serve alongside Paul on the LEP board since its beginning. He has been a tireless champion of the north east and I wish him well in the future.

“After five years it is only right that we make way for others to carry the mantle forward. The North East has such a vibrant and thriving business community and I have no doubt the new members will have brighter, fresher ideas and contribute fully to the vital task carried out by the LEP. I will look forward to following their success with great interest.”

Gill said: “I will continue to be a strong advocate of the North East LEP’s activity and work hard to ensure North East business seizes the maximum benefits a new political landscape will present.”

Councillor Simon Henig, Chair of the North East Combined Authority and Leader of Durham County Council, said: “Paul has created a strong foundation for the North East to move into a new phase as we work towards proposed devolution and an elected Mayor.”

Businesspeople interested in applying for a board member post at the North East LEP should contact Jim Allcroft at NRG. Email: [email protected] or Tel: 0191 2604483.

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