In October I declared my candidacy for election to the Confederation of British Industry (CBI)’s East of England Regional Council.
The elections are underway and I and 15 other candidates from across the region are on the ballot to decide who will have the privilege of sitting on the CBI Regional Council.
I believe these elections represent a very important opportunity for the East of England, as we move through the COVID pandemic and towards the inevitable changes Brexit will bring. Those two issues alone will continue to bring new and different challenges for businesses across the East. Add to that the Government’s stated Net Zero by 2050 ambition, the levelling up agenda, potential devolution deals and a myriad of other changes, and it becomes clear that this decade could have a transformative impact on our region.
It is because of the real importance of the coming years that I have chosen to stand in this year’s CBI elections.
To explain a bit more about myself I am the Eastern Network Director for Cadent, Britain’s largest gas distribution network. I oversee the operation of the region’s gas distribution network which connects about four million homes and businesses to safe and reliable gas supplies which power everything from gas cookers to heavy industry.
I lead a team of around 1,500 staff, with a direct supply chain of another 500 people. It’s our mission to ensure people have safe and reliable gas supplies when and where they need them.
I’ve worked as an engineer for over thirty years, starting as a teenage apprentice in the region with British Gas and progressing through the industry to my current position as Network Director. This gives me a unique perspective on the skills agenda, which will be so important in the coming decade.
I’ve been incredibly lucky to spend most of my life living in the East of England, being born in Cambridge, growing up in Essex and now residing in Suffolk. I’ve experienced first-hand our outstanding academic institutions and what a great role they can play in upskilling our young people. I was recently very proud to complete an MBA at the University of East Anglia. Studying in the heart of my home region with other outstanding businesspeople has given me real hope for the economic future of the East.
If elected to the CBI Regional Council, one of my main priorities will be building further links between businesses and educational institutions, to make sure that our workforce in the East of England is ready to meet the challenges of the 2020s and beyond. There are opportunities for education and advancement, both for young people and adults who are already in work, across the East. I want to make sure we are teaching people the right skills at the right time, thereby supporting both personal growth and the economic success of our region.
Alongside skills, my other key priority for the Regional Council is infrastructure. As the Director of a Gas Distribution Network, it probably comes as no surprise that I believe the 2020s represent an incredibly important time for infrastructure. The decisions we make on infrastructure in the coming months and years will affect the course of this country for a century or more.
At Cadent, we are at the cutting edge of the hydrogen revolution. As you read this Cadent and its partners are trialling blending hydrogen into the existing gas network, which would substantially reduce carbon emissions. That’s just the start though, in the North West of England we are working on ‘HyNet’, a project to produce clean hydrogen at industrial scale, potentially revolutionising how we heat our homes, power our heavy vehicles and support our industries.
I am passionate about ensuring the East of England isn’t left behind in the coming hydrogen revolution. That’s why under my direction Cadent last month became a paying sponsor of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the East of England (APPGEE). In this group we work with MPs from all parties in the East of England, and other businesses, to make sure the needs of the East are understood by Government Ministers. I am proud we have made that major step forward in standing up for the East of England. We’ve also been talking to a new group called Hydrogen East, which is working with government and businesses from across our region to develop plans for how the East of England can best benefit from the coming hydrogen economy. There is, of course, much more to do but I’m delighted by the progress we’ve made over the last year.
You will, I’m sure, read compelling pitches from some of the other great candidates standing in this election. I hope I get the chance to work with many of them in the months and years ahead. To do that, though, I need the votes of businesses across the East. So if you want to elect someone who has spent most of their life living in the region, who is passionate about standing up for the place he calls home, and who is involved in cutting edge technology, then please consider voting for me.