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 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.

We have a company board comprising of 18 directors: 12 are private sector, six are public sector. We are currently recruiting for one private sector director.


Alun Rogers (Chairman)

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.


James Leavesley (Vice Chair)

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.


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.


Professor Trevor McMillan

Before moving to Keele as Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Provost in January 2014 he was Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research at Lancaster University, where he led several major academic developments and was the lead for many partnerships with other Universities and external organisations in the UK and abroad.

Prior to being PVC at Lancaster Professor McMillan was Dean of the Institute of Environmental and Natural Sciences and Head of the Department of Biological Sciences.

Professor McMillan was educated at Birtley Lord Lawson Comprehensive School before studying biological sciences at Lancaster, graduating in 1981. He was awarded a PhD in Biophysics at the Institute of Cancer Research, University of London in 1984.

Professor McMillan is a member of the Midlands Innovation Board. Midlands Innovation is a world-class university partnership pooling the collective excellence of eight universities in the Midlands to power growth across the region.




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.




Sara Williams

Sara is CEO at Staffordshire Chambers of Commerce. She has a wealth of experience working with the private sector to develop services in response to their needs, as well as a proven track record of lobbying and representing businesses.

Sara has worked in marketing and community development as well as in museums and galleries.

Previously she was Director of Enterprise at St Helens Chamber. She Sara has been a Governor of Liverpool John Moores University.







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. Following the local elections in May 2019 Abi was elected as leader of the council. 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.

Abi was instrumental in the creation of the coalition administration in 2015 when she was elected as 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.



Hannah Ault

Hannah is sales and marketing director at Stoke-on-Trent-based ceramics firm Valentine Clays, which provides raw materials to the pottery industry. She has several years’ experience working in the ceramics, fashion and beauty industries at well-known brands including Prada, the Arcadia Group, Emma Bridgewater and American Eagle Outfitters in New York.

For the past five years Hannah has managed and developed a £3 million expansion project for her family’s business Valentine Clays as well as creating the LoveClay Ceramics Centre and managing a successful ceramics show Art in Clay.

Hannah has a wealth of experience in product development, strategic marketing and public relations, business planning, project and event management and growth planning for SMEs. She also has a high level of knowledge in the ceramics industry.









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.





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.



Sinéad Butters, MBE DUniv.

Sinéad is Group Chief Executive of Aspire Housing, which also comprises Staffordshire’s largest apprenticeship provider PM Training and social regeneration charity Realise, and holds a Non-Executive Director role at Goram Homes. 
As Chair of national housing network PlaceShapers, Sinéad has been instrumental in uniting members around shared values as a voice for change.

In recent years, Sinéad has received an MBE for services to housing, two honorary doctorates for work supporting communities, was recognised as a Top 3 ‘24Housing Power Player’, named ‘Chief Executive of the Year’ in the 24Housing Awards, and has seen Aspire receive the Queens Award for Enterprise; a first for housing.






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.




Caroline Brown

Caroline is Managing Director of Caja, a leading business services consultancy working across public, private, health and education sectors.

Her business is based at Keele University Science and Innovation Park.









Cllr George Allen

Cllr Allen has been a member of East Staffordshire Borough council since 2015, and Deputy Leader of Regeneration and Planning Policy since May 2019.

He has experience in heavy goods fleet management with both local and national companies. Recently he gained a diploma in Electrical Design Engineering.







Cllr Jeremy Oates

Portfolio holder for Heritage & Growth at Tamworth Borough Council, Cllr Jeremy Oates’ Borough Council responsibilities include: Economic & Business Development; Educational Attainment; Careers, Skills & Training; Town Centre Regeneration & Master-Planning; Tourism & Heritage Promotion; and the West Midlands Combined Authority.


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