Who we are
The West of England Recovery Taskforce has been set up to drive the West of England’s economic recovery following the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. As one of the most productive regions in the UK, the West of England is key to leading the national recovery through these difficult times.
The taskforce is made up of senior figures from industry, education and local government who all bring a range of expertise to the taskforce, and is led by Regional Mayor, Tim Bowles.
Members of the Taskforce
David Brown joined The Bristol Port Company in October 2008 as the Operations Director and was appointed as its Chief Executive Officer in 2016.
Prior to joining the Port, David spent 24 years serving in the British Army during which time he was involved in numerous operational deployments culminating in commanding his battalion in Afghanistan in 2007.
Nigel was elected a trade union official at the age of 24 in the printing industry just as the 1980’s recession hit. Redundancy support dominated his early career and he learnt that advice and guidance wasn’t enough to get people back to work. He established a cooperative training operation for unemployed print and graphics workers that became the top performer in the area.
He joined the Board of Hereford and Worcester Training and Enterprise Council and when appointed Regional Secretary for the South West TUC he joined the WESTEC Board.
He became the longest serving director of the South West Regional Development Agency and was the inspiration behind the formation of Equality South West.
Nigel is also a part-time PhD student at the University of the West of England.
Brought up in Birmingham, Andy Forbes did his teacher training at Manchester University and began his career as a secondary school teacher of English and Drama, before making the transition to further education by joining Manchester College.
Until recently, he was the Principal of City & Islington College, which is a General FE College but also the largest A level provider in London. Previously, he was Principal of the College of Haringey, Enfield, and North East London, and before that, of Hertford Regional College. Prior to this, he was Vice Principal at Blackpool and the Fylde College, and before that, he was Director of Widening Participation at The Oldham College.
He has served as a school governor, Chair of a housing association, Chair of Oldham Race Equality Partnership, and specialist adviser to the Parliamentary Select Committee on Social Cohesion. His work with Oldham Housing Department won a National Training Award in 1996. He served for seven years as a member of the OCR Examinations Board Policy Committee, and is currently a Trustee of UCAS and Chair of the Board of UCAS Media Limited.
Andy has a degree in English, an MA from Cambridge University, and a PGCE and Diploma in Management Sciences from the University of Manchester.
Dave Lees joined Bristol Airport as its new CEO in August 2018, after several years as Managing Director of Southampton Airport, and previously as the Airport Operations Director and Planning and Development Director. During his time as MD, Southampton achieved record growth in both passenger numbers and service level achievements. Dave has also had a successful aviation career across a range of roles at other UK Airports including; Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted.
Dave has a BSc in Transport Management from Loughborough University where his passion for aviation developed.
He recently moved to the South West, and his interests include, travel, running, power boating and photography.
Poku is a social entrepreneur with cross-sector experience in business start-ups, real estate, community engagement and social mobility programmes.
He is the founder and CEO of Babbasa – the award winning social mobility enterprise, which supports underrepresented young people into employment and enterprise. He is also the Founder of the World Economic Forum initiative – Global Shapers in Bristol, and Co-founder of The Black Professionals Network.
Poku holds a BA in Psychology, MSc in Business Management from UWE, and Strategic Planning & Foresight Certificate from the University of Oxford. He will be focusing on young people, skills, employment, equal opportunity and inclusion on the Taskforce.
Dick Penny works as creative producer, manager and consultant. Dick has extensive CEO experience including Bristol’s Watershed 1998-2018. Consultancy ranges from SMEs to national bodies. Theatre producer projects include the World Premiere of WHEN THE WIND BLOWS adapted by Raymond Briggs from his book; Pete Postlethwaite in MACBETH; and two award winning solo shows: BAGLADY with Sorcha Cusack and SCARAMOUCHE JONES with Pete Postlethwaite.
Dick has also worked as a builder, computer programmer and manager in manufacturing industry, from self-assembly furniture and commercial vehicles to industrial textiles.
Dick has served as Executive Chair of Bristol Old Vic and Chair of Bristol Local Strategic Partnership. He has been awarded honorary doctorates from the Universities of Bristol and West of England, and in 2011 he received an MBE for services to the creative industries. He is currently a member of the West of England Local Enterprise Partnership Board.
Joanne is a partner at law firm Foot Anstey LLP specialising in advising businesses and stakeholders affected by financial distress. Since 2001 she has been heavily involved with companies across the region but also works nationally particularly in the financial and professional services, construction and retail sectors. Her role is focused on opportunities for turnaround, preservation of employment, building sustainable growth but will also involve managing formal insolvency processes. She provides board level advice on the duties and responsibilities of directors experiencing financially challenging circumstances.
Joanne serves on a number of voluntary boards including West of England LEP, the Insolvency Lawyers’ Association and the Turnaround Management Association. She also served on the Law Society National Equality and Diversity Committee and has spent many years involved in primary school governance in Bristol and South Gloucestershire with particular focus on vulnerable children and raising aspirations.
From 1983 Phil worked in the North Sea oil & gas fields as an offshore construction engineer for an American oil company. The stagnating North Sea oil industry of the late 80’s led Phil to do an MBA at London Business School and University of California Berkeley, which was followed by a role as a mergers and acquisitions specialist at a City of London investment bank.
Phil moved to Bristol in the early 90’s to become the CEO of the West of England Business Link. In 2003 Phil took on his current position as MD of Business West, the largest Chamber of Commerce in the UK, and a public purpose company, which operates the West of England Initiative and the Bristol, Bath, Gloucestershire & Wiltshire Chambers of Commerce. It also operates various public sector contracts, including DIT export services and Innovate UK services for the SW region. Business West is the co-founder of Destination Bristol and the Bristol Cultural Development Partnership. Phil is Chair of the South West Ventures Fund Advisory and the West of England ESIF committees and sits on the Court of Bristol University.
Professor White joined the University of Bath in April 2019 prior to which he was Master of Jesus College, and Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Chair of the School of Technology at Cambridge University. He has also held senior positions at both the University of Bath and the University of Bristol.
Professor White’s research interests are in photonics, including optical data communications and laser diode-based devices. He is a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE), the UK Royal Academy of Engineering, and the Institution of Engineering and Technology. He is heavily involved in policy development and administration of research, and sits on a number of International Conference Committees.
Ian also co-founded Zinwave Ltd, a company providing wireless coverage solutions, and PervasID Ltd which develops ultra-high-frequency RFID readers. He has previously been a Board Member of the Greater Cambridge Greater Peterborough Local Enterprise Partnership. He has published in excess of 1000 papers and more than 30 patents.
Rick is CFO of the Bristol based company running the Bloodhound world land speed record project and is the Regional Advisory Board Chairman for Business in the Community in the Southwest.
His background is in business transformation and consultancy working in senior executive roles for companies such as Serco, BT, PwC, Accenture and IBM advising Governments and multinational businesses in more than 100 countries across the world.
He has run major projects for the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, the EBRD and the European Union, and represented the UK as an international trade ambassador.
Paul Craig is President Customer Services for Rolls-Royce plc. He has accountability for the operational and business performance of all Defence Service activity within the corporation.
A long-time employee of Rolls-Royce, Paul has held a number of senior Engineering, Project, Operation and Service positions within the company. More specifically Paul has been Chief Engineer of the Trent 700 and 800 products, Project Director Boeing Programmes, Director Technical Support and Operations, Director Civil Aerospace Operations and EVP Unit Cost for the corporation.
Paul is currently Chairman of both AirTanker Services and Europrop International (EPI). He is also a Board Member of the Bristol Aero Collection Trust and President of the Bristol Branch of the Rolls-Royce Heritage Society.
Paul has a Masters Degree in Mechanical Engineering and a Doctorate researching ‘Business Economic Performance’, both from the University of Warwick. He is an alumni of both Columbia and Harvard Universities, and a Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society.
Paul’s time outside of the company is dominated by a family of four children, but other interests include football, keep fit and military history.
Sammy Payne is the co founder of Open Bionics, an award-winning Bristol based robotics company that exports medical devices internationally. Open Bionics is a venture backed tech company that works with industry giants such as Disney and Marvel to create sci-fi themed Hero Arms. Sammy is also the chair of the Creative Scale Up board and a board member of both the South West Creative Tech Network and Bristol and Bath R&D Network. These initiatives total £13m and provide support to talented early stage companies, growing scale ups, and creative practitioners and entrepreneurs across the South West.
Twitter: @sighsam @openbionics
Katharine Finn is an audit partner in PwC’s Bristol office and until recently was the Regional Leader of their West and Wales practice. She has a wide range of experience working with clients from many different sectors, but has particular experience in working with listed companies and with regulated companies across the financial services and utilities sector.
Outside the firm, Katharine has a portfolio of interests in both Bristol and Cardiff. She is the deputy chair of the West of England Local Enterprise Partnership and the Cardiff City Chair for TheCityUK. She has also been CBI Wales Council member. She is a member of the Society of Merchant Venturers and sits on their education committee. She is also a Trustee of Avon Wildlife Trust and has previously been the Prince of Wales’ Ambassador for Responsible business in the South West.
Kathryn Davis has spent almost all of her professional life working in tourism, hospitality and leisure, the last 20 years of which have been with Destination Bristol. This has taken her from a Marketing Executive pioneering digital communication to Head of Tourism, working on regional, national and international programmes across all areas of the visitor economy in. She is also interim Chief Executive at Visit Bath, joining in September 2019. Kathryn is also a non-executive director at Gloucestershire County Cricket Club, a member of the Tourism Management Institute and a regular speaker at industry events. In 2018, she was awarded the Outstanding Contribution to Tourism at the Bristol, Bath and Somerset Tourism awards.
Peter is Managing Director of Alvis Bros Ltd. a family farming and cheese making business. Employing 140 people the business is farming approximately 4,000 acres in total while milking about 1,000 cattle along with 2,000 acres of arable production. All milk from the farm goes to cheese making along with milk from 30 other local farms to produce c.4,500 tonnes of conventional and organic cheese per annum, cheese is matured and packed on site ready for customers around the world.
Recent years have seen strong sales growth in exports to many countries. Away from home Peter is currently the Chairman of The Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers – RABDF and also co-chairs an industry group advising government of development of legislation for the implementation of its Clean Air Strategy for Dairy and Intensive Beef farms.
David Coombes MBA FCILT FCMI is Chief Executive of Skills for Logistics and The Skills Group
With over 35 years experience working in transport and logistics, David plays a pivotal role within the sector, recruiting talent and helping to develop learning across the industry. For the last 18 months he has been an advisor to the Institute of Apprenticeships and Technical Education, he has been Regional Chairman of the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport for over 10 years and a strategic advisor to the UK Warehousing Association.
Skills for Logistics is a leading awarding and assessing body for apprenticeship standards and is developing a digital learning platform focusing on vocational and technical learning.
David will be chairing the Transport and Logistics sub-group for the West of England’s economic recovery taskforce by developing regional insight into the pandemic’s impact, proposing actions to mitigate those effects and ultimately enhancing the region’s competitiveness.
Skills for Logistics is based in Bristol.
A graduate of NHS management training, Natasha has over 25 years’ of leadership experience in the NHS.
With experience in commissoning and provider organisations, Natasha has led adult and child mental health, children’s community and acute services, adult surgical and specialist renal and transplantation services. Natasha has an MSc in Leadership and Development of Public Sector Organisations.
Natasha joined the West of England AHSN as COO in 2015, and became CEO early in 2018.
Natasha is National Lead for Patient Safety for the AHSN Network and also serves on the board of the West of England Local Enterprise Partnership.
Margot is the Global Director for Risk and Commercial Law for Buro Happold Limited an international multi-disciplinary engineering and consulting practice situated in over 21 locations globally. Margot works out of the head office situated in Bath. She is also a senior solicitor of the courts of England and Wales.
Margot has worked in the south west region and particularly Bristol since 2004. Margot worked for Osborne Clarke before moving in-house to work with Hyder PLC and subsequently as a partner in Arcadis LLP. Margot grew up in London and graduated with a law degree from University College London. She has held a number of senior management positions, acting as part of UK Boards and also leading the Bristol office in a previous company.
She is passionate about driving equality, diversity, inclusion agendas both inside and outside of work.
She is a parent governor at St Mary Redcliffe Primary School.
She lives in Bristol with her husband and two sons.
Neil graduated from Bristol University and then worked for an international corporation for 23 years in various engineering and management positions until 2007 when he co-founded Viper Innovations, a company that specialises in technology development. Head-quartered in Portishead, Viper Innovations has continuously invested in research and development, which has driven the company to realise an average annual growth rate of over 30%. The company has won many business and technology awards including the Queens Award for Enterprise. Exports account for most of Viper’s revenues, with Europe, Africa, Asia and the Americas all export destinations.
As well as being the Managing Director of Viper Innovations, Neil also sits on the board of LiveWire Innovation Inc, a UTAH based technology company, and is on board of the West of England LEP. Neil brings experience of the needs of technology companies, SMEs, and those who are exporting or hope to export.
Richard Bonner has worked for Arcadis for 13 years, based in Bristol, he has had several leadership roles more recently as the UK Managing Director for Property. Currently he is the UK Commercial and Operations Director and City Executive Bristol.
Richard, a Chartered Civil Engineer, has a background in engineering and consultancy working generally in the housing, regeneration and development sector with both public and private sector clients.
As the Bristol City Executive for Arcadis, Richard leads the business to market shaping solution to help the city region grow and develop through sustainable urbanisation , housing delivery and regeneration.
Richard is the President of the Bristol Chamber of Commerce and Initiative, a Director of Business West, and a board member of the West of England Local Enterprise Partnership. He is a member of the West of England Combined Authority Economic Regional Taskforce and will chair the Housing, Construction and Development Sector Group.
Richard is a member of the Leadership Centre Future Vision Alumni Council.
Jon is the Chief Executive for GDS Digital – a Bristol company which delivers internet-based solutions, including a health and social care platform for better assisted living. These digital capabilities help transform the way public services can be delivered to citizens and patients as they engage and interact with local authorities, healthcare and housing associations through a range of self-service options.
He has lived in the West of England region for over thirty years and, from developing a new start-up division in direct marketing in Bristol in the 1990’s to chairing BT’s South West Board, Jon has been proud to have been a champion for the regional growth agenda. During his thirty-year career in telecommunications, he has led a number of regional and national broadband programmes including Superfast Cornwall and the Public Sector Broadband Aggregation (PSBA) service in Wales.
On May 4 2017, Tim was elected as the first West of England Regional Mayor for the newly formed Combined Authority. As the new Mayor, he is working closely with Bath and North East Somerset, Bristol and South Gloucestershire Council on key issues such as transport, housing and skills.
Tim was an experienced South Gloucestershire Councillor, representing the Winterbourne ward and served as part of the leadership team at South Gloucestershire Council.
Tim has also enjoyed a successful career in sales and marketing, most recently as New Business Manager for a global events company. Tim also served as a Governor at the largest school in South Gloucestershire from 2003 to 2015 and is passionate about education. He also acts as a dementia champion, supporting charities in this field.
Professor Steve West took up the post of Vice-Chancellor of the University of the West of England Bristol in 2008 at the age of 46.
He trained as a Podiatrist and Podiatric Surgeon in London and developed his research interests in Lower Limb Biomechanics and the Diabetic Foot at King’s College London. He holds a number of national and international advisory appointments in Higher Education in his discipline, healthcare policy and practice.
Steve is a Non-Executive Director for the Higher Education Funding Council for England and Vice-Chair of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) SOuth West. Steve is also Chair of the UK Mental Health Education Working Group and Chair of the Learning for and in Work Challenge Group and a Board Member of the Learning City Partnership Board.
He is the Chair of the West of England Academic Health Science Network (WEAHSN), a Board Member of Universities UK and Chair of the Universities UK Health Education and Research Policy Network and Chair of the UUK Mental Health in Higher Education Working Group.
Further information can be found on the VC’s profile page.
Dine Romero has lived in Bath for 25 years. In May 2003 she was elected as the Bath and North East Somerset Councillor for Southdown and became Leader of the Council in May 2019. She is leading on the administration’s open local government and engagement project.
Dine’s background is in science and communications; she has previously worked for a variety of SMEs locally and in the South East. Dine is the Vice Chair of the Bath-Alkmaar Twinning Association and is a Trustee of Bath Children in Need.
Born and brought up in Bristol, living in St Paul’s, Lawrence Weston and Easton, Marvin graduated from Swansea and Eastern University (USA).
Started his career working for faith based youth charities led him to set up his own enterprise in 2012. The City Leadership Programme invests in the personal development, leadership skills and life planning of high ability, high aspiration young people from disadvantaged backgrounds.
His lifelong passion for speaking up for those whose voices are not heard, led Marvin to journalism – beginning with roles at the BBC as a broadcast journalist.
After leaving the BBC studio to pursue other opportunities, Marvin started working with the NHS in 2008 managing the Delivering Race Equality in Mental Healthcare action plan for Bristol, South Gloucestershire and North Somerset. He then progressed to planning and supporting the development of strategic collaborations between city and regional partners and Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership Trust.
Marvin joined the Labour Party’s Future Candidates Programme in 2011, learning from recognised leaders the skills and qualities necessary to be a strong and committed representative.
In his private life, Marvin is married to Kirsten, a Pilates instructor, and has 3 children; a daughter Eden and two boys, Caleb and Levi.
His priorities are to tackle Bristol’s housing crisis by building more homes, freeing up spare land for development and protecting private tenants by encouraging them to signing up to a charter for ethical lettings. He also plans to tackle issues surrounding transport, the environment, health and well-being, social immobility and the economy, education and skills.
Don Davies has been Independent Councillor for Pill Ward on North Somerset Council since 2011. Having been Leader of the Opposition for three years, he became Leader of the Council in May 2019. He is currently Chair of Avon Fire Authority.
Don has lived in Pill since 1990 where he is heavily engaged in youth, community, environment and church groups. He is a member of Pill and Easton-in-Gordano Parish Council. He has worked as a logistics professional for nearly 40 years, graduated from Trinity College, Cambridge and gained an Engineering Masters at University of Birmingham.
Toby was born and brought up in South Gloucestershire. In May 2015 he was elected as the South Gloucestershire Councillor for Longwell Green and became Leader of the Council in May 2018. He continues to hold the education and skills portfolio.
Toby’s background is in communications and as a researcher in local government, planning and housing. He was a Special Constable with the Avon & Somerset Constabulary for 5 years.