Hands-on regional chief hired

A new boss of a major regional business body has been hired - easing the concerns of those who wanted a '˜hands-on' locally-based figurehead.

Thursday, 10th January 2019, 15:46 pm
Updated Thursday, 10th January 2019, 15:49 pm
James Muir, new Sheffield City Region LEP chair.

James Muir has been recruited as chair of the Local Enterprise Partnership to steer the city region to greater economic growth.

He retired in December after a 30-year career in sales for Mazda, Ford and Seat before being responsible for Volkswagen Group sales in more than 20 countries. He lives in Sheffield and will work unpaid for the LEP for '˜four to five' days a month.

Mr Muir replaces Sir Nigel Knowles who stepped down after three years.

He said: "I'm very excited to have been appointed to this important role, and to build on the strong legacy that Sir Nigel has left.

"Using my business acumen and experience of spearheading businesses across more than 25 markets, I believe I can support our local companies to develop and expand their potential across the globe. "As a resident of Sheffield, with strong connections to the wider region, I want to do my utmost to create a vibrant economic powerhouse at the forefront of technological change."

The search for a new chair had been controversial, with Sheffield City Council leader Julie Dore demanding someone based locally, unlike London-based Sir Nigel, whose absence sparked complaints of '˜inaction'.

Dan Jarvis, Sheffield City Region mayor, headed the interview panel and said he was confident Mr Muir would provide strong leadership in a crucial role.

He added: 'With James's business expertise, passion for our region and his dedication to social mobility, I'm confident he will provide strong leadership to the LEP, be the voice of our businesses and represent the Sheffield City Region on a Northern, national and international level."

A day before the announcement, Sir Nigel issued a letter slamming the four South Yorkshire council leaders for failing to agree a devolution deal worth about £60m-a-year to the region.

He said he had witnessed '˜the worst short-sightedness' over the lack of agreement which was a '˜self-inflected form of handbrake' caused by a '˜failure of political leadership'.

Beckie Hart, regional director of the CBI, said: 'James' appointment is great news for the LEP, for businesses, and for all those committed to driving economic growth across the Sheffield City Region.

'James is perfectly placed to lead the Board, bring in investment and position Sheffield City Region on the world stage.'