New Crossrail Train Carriages Unveiled

On the 3 February I had a stimulating trip to Bombardier in Derby to see the Elizabeth line trains – Crossrail as I knew it – being built.

I liked the accessibility features which I thought worked well. This includes subtle colour contrast (i.e. not bright yellow!), step free access from platform to train, wide doorways and four dedicated wheelchair spaces on each train. You can still travel in the vestibule, though, so there’s plenty of choice.  In addition, all platforms along the Elizabeth line will be fully accessible with step-free access/ramps for boarding.

The new line will truly be a ‘step-change’ in transport accessibility in London. I’m looking forward to travelling on it when the line opens fully in December 2019.


BDF Annual President’s Dinner


Last month I attended the annual President’s Group dinner hosted by Lloyds Group in the City. The President’s Group brings  together the leaders of the Business Disability Forum’s partners to identify and discuss the strategic challenges of becoming disability-smart.

I shared a table with an impressive group of talented people that made for an thought-provoking evening. There were some interesting and lively discussions on improving employment opportunities and services for disabled people.

Spending an evening in such company makes me realise that we can make progress on the inclusion of disabled people in society when we work together.


Swanswell and Cranstoun Merger


swansellI am pleased to report on the successful merger last month of Swanswell and Cranstoun, both national charities that provide support to people affected by addiction.

The smooth merger of these organisations is a testament to the dedication and hard work of both organisations’ senior executive teams and Boards.  They have worked tirelessly to ensure that the transition process is seamless and that services continue uninterrupted.

In the current difficult political and economic environment, this merger makes good business sense. The consolidation of operations and resources allows the new group to strengthen their sustainability and provide a robust platform to expand and develop in the future and deliver more high-quality services to individuals and communities.cranstoun_logo

The charities have a shared vision to save, change and rebuild lives and already successfully work in partnership on many projects. This is an exciting new venture and I wish the new organisation well as I end my tenure as Chair of the Board of Trustees at Swanswell.

Highly Recommended…

I had the pleasure of enjoying a celebratory weekend in London recently where I got to enjoy a double cultural treat. Firstly, the National Theatre’s award-winning production of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time in the West End. Wow – I can highly recommend this entertaining winner of 7 Olivier Awards and 5 Tony Awards® including ‘Best Play’ – it gripped me the whole way through.

Then secondly, I also got to see the new Ken Loach film I, Daniel Blake. An excellent film of our time that will stay with you. It’s a moving, sometimes funny film that is a painfully realistic representation of welfare bureaucracy at its worst: failing to listen and thereby disadvantaging further those who rely on it in times of hardship. Well worth watching…

It’s Good to Talk… Contrarian Prize Debate


On 30 November I attended an fascinating panel debate discussing conformity at Cass Business School in London. The event was hosted by The Contrarian Prize which aims to recognise individuals in British public life who stand up for their principles and demonstrate independence, courage and sacrifice.

‘Contrarianism in an age of conformity’ was the debate topic. The panel of 6 distinguished speakers discussed the threats to free speech in Britain and the role of contrarian thinking in challenging the status quo.

Their diverse viewpoints gave me much food for thought especially in light of the recent UK and USA political turbulence where political discourse has become increasingly visceral and polarised.


Vibrant Economy Commission: Future of Manchester’s Healthcare




As a commission member I was thrilled to attend this Manchester focused event on the 24 November.

This next stage of the Vibrant Economy Inquiry, hosted by Grant Thornton, brought together more than 100 leaders from across the region to collaborate on ideas that could help turn the city into a pioneer of world class health.

The interactive day saw groups share ideas and feedback, while attendees were also addressed by speakers from across the Manchester region. It focused on imagining a proactive and preventative future for Manchester’s healthcare.

I am looking forward to seeing how this exciting project develops.


Interesting View from the Other Side

I attended an interesting lunchtime talk by Syed Kamall, the Conservative MEP for London and leader of the European Conservatives and Reformists, on the 2 November 2016 in London.

Syed offered a controversial and informed insider analysis on Brexit from his pro Brexit viewpoint at this event hosted by the Champollion Group.

Always great to hear differing views especially when so eloquently delivered.

Masterclass: Exec / Non-Exec relationships in the Third Sector


I was delighted recently to lead a governance masterclass at the three-day AMEX Leadership Academy hosted by Common Purpose.common-purpose-logo

Held at the wonderfully welcoming Wallacespace in London, the one hour masterclass session was informal and interactive. It provided an opportunity for future leaders in the Third Sector to come together and focus on governance, and in particular how to address the divide between Executive and Non-Executive board members.

All-in-all, a dynamic session which I thoroughly enjoyed.

Fuel Poverty annual report at the NEA National Conference


As a member of the Committee on Fuel Poverty I was delighted to attend the NEA National Conference in Manchester last month. We started the final day of the conference by launching our annual report which laid out our direction of travel and early thinking on how to reduce fuel poverty.

We were also privilaged to listen in on the round-table discussion sessions on Fuel Poverty expertly chaired by Derek Lickorish MBE, Chair of NEA. These lively discussions provided much useful input to help focus our priorities for the coming year so that we can better advise on the policies aimed at reducing fuel poverty.

To see a full copy of the annual Fuel Poverty report click here.

How to Balance the Roles of Chair and CEO

AOC logo


On 20th September, along with the Chair of Community Action:MK Sheila Thornton, I was delighted to present at a joint event in Milton Keynes. This Association of Chairs (AoC) and CA:MK event was sponsored by Grant Thornton and hosted in a large and airy meeting room at Spinal Injuries Association HQ.

Entitled ‘A Quality Double Act’ the focus of the evening was to better understand the differences in the roles of the Chair and the CEO, and importantly how to achieve a balance between the two. We also explored the key challenges organisations are facing at the moment.

This event provided a great opportunity for local Chairs and Vice-chairs as well as executive staff of non-profit organisations to learn more of the work of the AoC, the resources they provide to support Chairs, and the resources available locally to non-profits. Click here to find out more about the AOC.