Stoke Staffs LEP

Executive Board

Meet the Board Members who are driving the partnership forward. We aim to be fully representative of the spectrum of business sectors that make up the Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire economy and of our area’s communities. Board member vacancies are publicised under the Vacancies tab on our website and we warmly welcome applications that will help us to reflect our diverse area.

David Frost CBE (Chair)

DavidFrostDavid Frost has lived and worked in the West Midlands since 1980. Born in the North East, after degrees in London he worked as an economist before moving to Walsall. In 1986 he was appointed as Chief Executive of the Walsall Chamber of Commerce which grew to become one of the largest in the UK. This position was further consolidated when it merged with Chambers in Cannock; Lichfield; Tamworth and Burton to form the East Mercia Chamber of Commerce. This led to David spending a considerable amount of time in Staffordshire. In 2000 he moved to head up the Chamber and Business Link in Coventry and Warwickshire. In 2003 he was appointed Director-General of the British Chambers of Commerce. Based in Westminster his role was to represent the interests of 100,000 businesses. It was here that he built links with senior Government Ministers, Politicians, and Civil Servants. On announcing his retirement from this he was asked to head up the national network of Local Enterprise Partnerships, representing the 39 LEPS. He did this until March 2014.

David was awarded a CBE for services to business in 2011, is a Deputy Lieutenant for the West Midlands and has an Honorary Doctorate from Birmingham City University.

His interests include: cycling and motorcycling. He is also Chair of two charities that seek to improve the opportunities for children and young adults: Vinspired and National Numeracy. He is married with 2 daughters. His wife heads up HR for the Mid-counties Cooperative society.


Alun Rogers (Vice Chair)

Alun Rogers co-founded Stafford-based IT firm risual with business partner Richard Proud in 2005, building on his previous experience as an IT consultant.

The duo self-funded the launch of the business, which has gone on to win numerous awards and become a Microsoft strategic partner for public and private sector clients. The firm provides IT consultancy, systems management and service support, plus a suite of IT systems, and today employs some 120 staff.

Beginning with Stafford College, risual has partnered with a range of FE colleges across the country to set up risual academies providing training in digital and IT skills.


Mohammed Ahmed

Stoke-on-Trent born and bred, Mohammed Ahmed is a senior finance business partner with Homeserve and also owns the Qarma restaurant in Leek, an SME which he runs with his father.

After gaining a degree in biochemistry from Imperial College London, he chose a career in strategy management and commercial investment accountancy. His career has taken him to leading businesses including Gillette, HBOS, where he was head of finance, BT, where he led a business transformation programme, and National Grid, also driving efficiency and business change, before joining Homeserve.

Mohammed chairs the LEP’s Audit and Finance Committee.



Wendy Dean

Wendy Dean is managing director of Newcastle-under-Lyme HR and business change consultancy Strategi Solutions Group, an SMEwhich she founded two years ago and which now has a team of 14 staff.

A Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development and the Institute of Leadership and Management, her career has included overseeing a culture change programme as HR director at Newcastle firm ANC Parcels, which later became part of the FedEx group. She then moved to Steelite as group HR director, where she led its ‘Stepping Up To The Plate’ change programme.

Wendy leads on skills and employment and also takes an active interest in SMEs as the LEP’s SME champion



Paul Farmer OBE

Paul Farmer OBE has been managing director of Wade Ceramics since 2001 after joining the firm as finance director in 1995. A management accountant by training, he began his career with Wedgwood and his subsequent experience has included posts with firms in the food manufacturing, sanitaryware and aerospace industries.

His time at Wade has seen a successful management buyout of the Stoke-on-Trent business in 1999 and the construction of a £14million high-tech new factory, which opened in 2009. Paul, who was appointed OBE for services to the ceramics industry, is president of the Staffordshire Chambers of Commerce.

Paul chairs the LEP’s European Structural Investment Funds (ESIF) Committee and also takes an active interest in ensuring that our business support activities through the Growth Hub meet the needs of businesses.



James Leavesley

James Leavesley is a chartered surveyor with nearly 30 years of experience covering a diverse range of business areas including farming, armaments destruction, construction, major project recycling and international trade. A Deputy Lieutenant for Staffordshire, with special responsibility for the business portfolio, he proactively promotes the rural economy and business across the county and, building on his work for the Lieutenancy, also takes a particular interest in the Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) sector and SME engagement for the LEP.

The chief executive of the Leavesley Group, he delivered the tri-Armed Services contract, through Leavesley International, for the disposal of all surplus vehicle spares for over 15 years. The company subsequently won, and delivered, the competitive tender to recycle three Royal Navy ships.

James has been actively involved in the work we have been progressing on maximising the benefits of technology in food and agriculture, in partnership with Cheshire and Warrington, Marches and Worcestershire LEPs.


Sarah Montgomery

Sarah Montgomery 150Sarah joined the National Memorial Arboretum as Managing Director in November 2012;  she is a senior manager with over 22 years’ commercial and not-for-profit experience in the tourism and heritage sectors. Prior to her appointment she was General Manager for the Chatsworth House Trust and the Devonshire Educational Trust in Derbyshire; earlier in her career she was General Manager of Warwick Castle for 12 years, part of the then Tussauds Group, and Board Director of Shakespeare Country, a public/private sector tourism partnership. She led the sensitive management and restoration of these nationally-important buildings, grounds and gardens whilst creating outstanding days out and events for visitors.

Sarah started her early career on Tube Investments Undergraduate Training scheme, with placements at a range of consumer and industrial companies in the Midlands – her first permanent role was in marketing at TI Russell Hobbs Ltd in Blythe Bridge, Stoke-on-Trent.

Sarah is currently the chair of destination management partnership (DMP) Destination Staffordshire, which markets the area under the brand Enjoy Staffordshire. She is the DMP representative on our board and executive group.


Cllr Philip Atkins OBE


Philip has been a member of Staffordshire County Council since 1987 and Leader since 2009. He is also a member of East Staffordshire Borough Council where he was Deputy Leader from 2003-2008.

He became chairman of West Midlands Councils in 2010 and sits on the Local Government Association Executive, which he represents on the European Structural and Investment Fund Growth Board. He also sits on the Midlands Engine and Midlands Connects Strategic Boards and has been elected as Vice Chairman of the County Council Network. He has also been elected Chairman of the Constellation Partnership.

Philip represents the remarkably economically diverse division in Staffordshire because it is largely rural but contains the world headquarters of JCB, one of the UK’s leading manufacturing exporters and a brand that is known around the world.

The need to reinvigorate the “wealth creators” in the economy is a key theme of much of Philip’s work. This includes transforming training and developing hi-tech and sustainable industries linked to outstanding research and development.

Philip is a farmer, and balances his public duties with running a demanding rural business. Philip was awarded an OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for his work in local government.

He blogs at:



Cllr Abi Brown

Abi 150

Abi was first elected to Stoke-on-Trent City Council in 2010 and became Conservative Group Leader on her re-election in 2011. She is a graduate of both Staffordshire and Keele Universities and has worked in both the public and private sectors in a variety of positions, from researcher to PA to delivery driver.

Following the elections in May 2015 Abi was instrumental in the creation of the new coalition administration and was elected Deputy Leader. She is also cabinet member for Finance and Partnerships and is using her role to pursue closer relationships with the public, private and voluntary sectors.

A keen advocate of small businesses, Abi has been running her own enterprise since 2006, while at the same time raising a young family.

Abi is also the chair of our Ceramic Valley Enterprise Zone Project Board.


Cllr Brian Edwards MBE

Brian Edwards is a Chartered Mechanical Engineer, having worked in heavy engineering designing power station boilers and also in the castings industry before joining the family housebuilding business. He now has an investment business.

He was first elected to South Staffs Council in 1983 and has represented the Kinver ward ever since. He was  chairman of the finance committee for 16 years and also chairman of the council in 1993. He became leader of the council in 2005.

He was elected to Staffordshire County Council in 1989, representing the Kinver division, and is currently chairman of the Prosperous Staffordshire Select Committee.

Since becoming leader of South Staffordshire his main interests have been in promoting partnership working for the benefit of the council and local residents.

Brian is one of the two district and borough council representatives on our executive group.


Cllr Patrick Farrington


Patrick Farrington, leader of Stafford Borough Council, is married with two teenage children and has lived or worked in Stafford since 1987. He is a solicitor and Partner at Hand Morgan and Owen solicitors in Stafford.

He has been involved in many charitable organisations and has been the Company Secretary for Katharine House Hospice for over 10 years. He is a past Chairman of Stafford Round Table and a past President of Stafford and District Law Society. He enjoys playing and watching most sports, particularly football, cricket and golf and once worked as a lifeguard in California

He was first elected as a Councillor for Rowley Ward in 2003, serving for 12 years before being elected for Baswich Ward in May 2015. He joined the borough council’s cabinet in 2007 and became leader of the council in February 2015. Patrick is one of the two district and borough council representatives on our executive group.


John Henderson

john-hendersonJohn Henderson joined Staffordshire County Council as Chief Executive in May 2015 after a career in the British Army; his last appointment was as a major general commanding the British Forces in Germany. He grew up in Perth in Scotland, where he attended Perth Academy, before studying Mechanical Engineering at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh.

John’s military service has been mostly overseas in engineering, logistic and support services leadership roles; he has spent over 15 years in Germany where he commanded at every level, and has also served in Belgium and the United States, as well as in the Army Headquarters in Andover. He has been privileged to command four times on operations: in Bosnia, in Iraq, and twice in Afghanistan.

As well as Heriot-Watt University, he has studied at the Joint Services Staff College and the Royal College of Defence Studies, as well as a Defence Technology Master’s Degree at Cranfield University. He is a Fellow of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers and the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport. He is a keen linguist, being almost native in German, fluent in French, and workable in a number of other European and Middle Eastern languages. He retains a non-executive role in the Army as a Colonel Commandant of the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME).

Professor Liz Barnes, Vice-Chancellor & chief executive, Staffordshire University

Liz Barnes became Vice Chancellor and Chief Executive at Staffordshire University in April 2016. Previously she was Deputy Vice Chancellor at Sheffield Hallam University and Derby University after a long career at Teesside University.

Liz BarnesAs a leading provider of Higher and Degree Apprenticeships, Staffordshire University has a strong connection with businesses across the region. Throughout her career, Liz has built connections with employers and industry working in partnership to provide vocationally relevant courses and upskill the workforce. With an academic background in physiology she worked closely with the NHS developing new ways of working and qualification frameworks. Subsequently she has led on significant developments with law enforcement agencies.

With a passion for digital technologies and how they can be used to transform the workplace and the learner’s experience she has recently joined the JISC Board. Committed to education and young people she is a member of four Multi-academy Trusts in the Region and she is Chair of Safe and Sound in Derby.



David Sidaway

David Sidaway has many years experience as a senior executive in regeneration, economic development, commercial and housing development successfully bringing million of pounds worth of investment to towns and cities across the UK. He combines this with roles working as a corporate director in local government, covering planning, HR, care services, property, IT, leisure, highways, environment, housing and legal.

He joined Stoke-on-Trent City Council, which has an annual budget of £714m and 5,000 employees in early 2015 as Director of Place, and is now City Director, the chief officer role for the council.



Judith Kirkland OBEjudith-kirkland

Judith Kirkland takes the lead for the Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise sectors (VCSE) for the Partnership. She chairs the VCSE Forum and is also the Vice Chair of the Education Trust Programme Board. Judith is currently CEO of Business Enterprise Support, and a Director at the National Enterprise Network. She brings to the LEP more than 30 years experience in the enterprise arena and extensive knowledge of the start-up market, including setting policy, strategy and operational activity.

She is a small business and commercial property owner, with experience of working in public, private and social organisations. Judith also has an understanding of Education system thanks to her role as Chair of Governors at a local school.

Adrian MacLaughlin

Adrian MacLaughlin takes an interest in Broadband affairs for the Partnership. Adrian MacLaughlin set up his own computer company when he left university and his since won contracts from other businesses around the world. He also developed and continues to run Dunston Business Village, a highly successful business park.


Cllr Anthony Munday

Councillor Anthony Munday represents the Baddeley Green, Milton and Norton Ward on Stoke-on-Trent City Council and is a former Lord Mayor of the City. Born and bred in Stoke-on-Trent, he has pursued a successful career as a journalist for local and national media and has also been chairman of his local community association for two decades. he was elected to the City Council four years ago.

Councillor Munday is the Cabinet Member for Greener City, Development and Leisure.


Cllr Simon Tagg

Simon Tagg is in his second spell as Leader of Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council.

He previously led the Borough Council between 2006 and 2011.

As a borough councillor since 2003 and a Staffordshire county councillor since 2007, Simon has vast experience of working as a community champion for his ward, Newcastle-under-Lyme and the county as a whole.


Cllr Mike Wilcox


Cllr Wilcox, leader of Lichfield District Council, has been a Conservative district councillor since 2007 for the Alrewas and Fradley ward and Leader since May 2010. He also serves as Cabinet Member for Finance Revenues and Benefits as well as being a member of Fradley and Streethay Parish Council.

Mike is the Bank Manager of HSBC’s Dudley Branch.

He is a warden at St Stephen’s Church in Fradley where he has lived since 1999. Mike is married to Sonia with three grown up children. In his spare time, Mike plays football in a Sunday league, enjoys gardening and watching Rugby Union.


Sara Williams


sara-newSara Williams took over as Chief Executive of Staffordshire Chambers of Commerce in January 2012. After working for two other Chambers (Head of Policy & Membership at Liverpool; Director of Enterprise Development at St Helens), she has a wealth of experience of working with the private sector to develop services in response to their needs, as well as extensive experience of lobbying and representation on businesses’ behalf.

In previous roles, Sara has worked in marketing, in community development, and in museums and galleries. Her experience in these areas led her to form her own consultancy business so she has inside knowledge of running a small business. After having her family she moved, via an Open University course, into managing an education programme for senior managers, called Merseyside Common Purpose. It was seeing the lack of a strong private sector voice that led her to work for Liverpool Chamber.

Sara is a strong advocate for the private sector in taking a lead in all aspects of economic development. She believes that Chambers of Commerce provide an excellent platform for engaging with companies, recognising local trends and being able to do something with that information. Her remit, and that of the Chamber, is to help businesses in Staffordshire to succeed.


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