Leeds Chamber President, Paula Dillon, expressed her immense pride recently at being able to lead one of the country’s best business communities. Originally from Liverpool, Paula said it was a privilege not only to lead the business support organisation, but also be part of positive changes going on in Leeds. Speaking at the Chamber’s annual dinner (Thursday 31 January), the lawyer said the organisation had its finger on the pulse when it comes to tracking the local and regional economy, and is playing an essential role ensuring the Leeds business voice is hear by policy-makers. Paula highlighted some of the influential policy development work carried out over the last 12 months, with activities, reports and events held in relation to employability, housing and the urban environment. She also paid tribute to work being done to attract more young people into manufacturing, citing the inaugural Manufacturing Festival led by Agfa’s Graham Cooper last autumn. The president put out a plea to regional politicians to “break the impasse” over devolution. “Having reviewed my speech from last year, I note that I said, ‘I understand we are now closer to some kind of deal with Whitehall…..’ Twelve months later, it is clear to business leaders that we appear poles apart from views in Whitehall. We implore our politicians to be pragmatic and break the impasse in 2019.” Channel 4’s announcement to relocate its headquarters to Leeds also came in for praise, with Paula congratulating Leeds and Bradford Councils’ Leaders along with the Chair of Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership for helping to land this inward investment. A copy of Paula’s speech can be found here The audience heard from industry minister and former Leeds Grammar School boy Richard Harrington MP. He articulated concerns about the impact a ‘no-deal Brexit’ would have on business and suggested there was a parliamentary majority for some kind of customs union. He added: “I cannot stand idly by and see a system which destroys business, which the prosperity of this country is based on. If you work in the automotive industry you are now ordering stock for delivery in April, May and June as part of the normal course of business. Surely, business should know under what rules they will come into the country, how long it is going to take and are they actually able to export products back into the EU.” The evening closed with broadcaster and comedian Dr Phil Hammond entertaining the guests. The next Chamber dinner is on 4 April at York’s National Railway Museum. Guest speaker will be Sir Ranulph Fiennes, the ‘Greatest Living Explorer’. Tickets from the events team on 01904 567838 – click here for other Chamber events.