Leeds Dinner: President sets out hopes and fears

Leeds Chamber’s first female president spoke about her plans, hopes and fears to a business audience last night (Thursday 25 January).

Paula Dillon, a partner with law firm Womble Bond Dickinson, covered a range of policy areas in which she will be hoping to have some influence over the next couple of years, while also remarking that, tongue-in-cheek, if nothing else, she would be judged “the best female president for Leeds so far!”

While Paula noted that there are now many more women in leadership roles than there were even ten years ago, she has always stressed that any change should be based on merit; she also highlighted that the STEM professions (science, technology, engineering and maths) suffer from a lack of visible female role models, and that this needs addressing.  The president acknowledged that the lobbying and representation role will be dictated by what members want, while saying that she wanted to continue fostering closer links with education.  Paula also acknowledged concerns about the drop in apprenticeship take-up since the levy’s introduction, while explaining that parents are being won over when receiving relevant information.

In a spirit of inclusiveness and collaboration, Paula also covered a number of other areas:  on transport, she stressed Leeds’ support for Bradford’s campaign to bring the Northern Powerhouse Rail line through the city, and also the need to work with the airport and improve local infrastructure that would help economic growth.  Back on home soil, Paula wants to see the city deliver its own festival of culture, in light of the EU banning a British city holding the position post-Brexit.

Guest speaker Alex Salmond was able to shine light on how Scotland handles its devolved powers – something our region is still struggling to secure, but not through lack of effort on the Chamber’s part.  The business organisation wrote to Communities Secretary Sajid Javid and Northern Powerhouse minister Jake Berry last year on the risks to the region caused by no devolution deal.  Other areas covered by Mr Salmond included the differences between Westminster and the Scottish Parliament, and the conundrum of his party wanting independence while staying within the EU.

The event was held at Royal Armouries, Leeds, on Thursday 25 January 2018.

NOTE: Photos to follow.