Row brewing over new Sheffield City Region business chief

Sheffield City Concil Julie Dore wants the next LEP chair to be hands-on and locally-based.
Sheffield City Concil Julie Dore wants the next LEP chair to be hands-on and locally-based.

A row is brewing over who should be the next boss of a major regional business body.

The Star understands Sheffield City Council leader Julie Dore wants a ‘hand-on’ locally-based leader as the next chair of the Local Enterprise Partnership. The LEP is the business arm of the City Region organisation, headed by mayor Dan Jarvis.

Mayor Dan Jarvis is pushing for someone with an international profile.

Mayor Dan Jarvis is pushing for someone with an international profile.

But Mr Jarvis is believed to be pushing for someone with national and international stature.

The unpaid post is advertised as up to five days a month. Headhunters have been hired, with interviews expected in January. But Coun Dore wants the job description changed.

The position is vacant after Sir Nigel Knowles retired in September. The former co-chair of global law firm DLA Piper, he is based in London and worked in Sheffield about three days a month.

A global figure, he attends the world economic forum in Davos and had an ambassadorial role, selling Sheffield around the world.

But his absence sparked complaints of a ‘inaction’ from local business leaders and Sheffield MP Clive Betts.

Coun Dore and supporters opposed his selection in 2015 – when he beat Richard Caborn to the job – and don’t want the same kind of figurehead again.

A hands-on mayor with knowledge of the region and the backing of the business community is seen as a better way to develop new projects and partnerships, influence Government policy and spending and tackle issues, such as the region’s stalled devolution deal.

Mayor Dan Jarvis was elected promising to get the agreement - worth £75m-a-year over 30 years - over the line.

But he is seen has having given up on attempting to persuade Barnsley and Doncaster to finalise the deal they signed up to, but then backed out of.

A spokesperson for the City Region said: “The new chair will be the most senior business figure in the Local Enterprise Partnership, leading the board and setting the strategic direction for economic growth across the region.

“A robust process is in place to ensure that the right person is recruited to this crucial post.”

The job descriptions states: ‘As a principal adviser to the elected Mayor for the Sheffield City Region, the role of chair is a pivotal and vital high-profile position in the LEP. 

‘As chair you will be the public face of the LEP, reaching out to networks locally, nationally and internationally. 

‘Your role is to show leadership, a strategic approach and ensure the efficient running of the board.’

Campaigners claim most LEP chairs are based in their city regions, such as Roger Marsh in Leeds.

But in August, London-based Sir Nigel Knowles said: ‘This model of a non-executive leader supported by a vice chair...reflected that we do not have a strong business voice nationally or internationally’.