Connecting the UK

Bringing together the best consultancy practitioners across the UK.



Devo Connect Executive Team

Gill Morris

Gill Morris FCIPR

Chief Executive

Named the most influential woman in public affairs, Gill has spent her career redefining public affairs. Her experience and passion for both politics and the public affairs industry have made her one of the most well-known figures in Westminster. Ever since she led a management buyout of Connect in 1998, she has overseen the growth of the company, including dedicated events, training and political intelligence teams, while maintaining its innovative and unique ethos.

The daughter of Lord (Alf) Morris of Manchester she has a wealth of northern experience including establishing the Regional Policy Forum, supporting the English Region’s Network and securing clients from across the private and public sector in the north including Mexichem and pteg.

The first place to look for the best communications support

Steve Barwick

Director Pan Northern Network

Resident of Hebden Bridge, the unofficial capital of the north, Steve has thirty years of experience in politics and public affairs during which his passion for rebalancing the economy has been to the fore. He has worked in Westminster – first for the MP for Halifax and then for a succession of senior women MPs – and also in Wigan – where he was Director of Strategy or the North West Leaders Board, a role which led him to be a member of the Northern Way Taskforce, a predecessor to the Northern Powerhouse.

Steve brings rigorous policy analysis as well as a wealth of regional experience to DevoConnect’s clients.

Sam Popper

DevoIntelligence Editor and Head of Policy

Sam Popper has been extensively involved with devolution processes in the North West since 2015, supporting voluntary sector and community inclusion in the Greater Manchester and Liverpool City Region deals at a strategic level. He has experience across a diversity of political activity, having worked for the think-tanks New Policy Institute and the Health Foundation, in Parliament, and in local party campaigning. He is the DevoIntelligence Editor and a member of the DevoConnect Executive Team.

Ross Cathcart

Executive Manager

An expat Scot, Ross Cathcart made the journey south to Manchester two years ago. His background is in business development and communications having worked for a variety of local and national voluntary and community sector bodies. He has been involved in the devolution process in Greater Manchester since early 2016 in the housing and homelessness sector. He is the Executive Manager and a member of the DevoConnect Executive Team.



Devo Connect Network

Martin Liptrot

Associate Consultant, North West Specialist

Martin is an experienced public affairs and political campaigns consultant. He has held leading positions with multi-national organisations in UK, Europe and US, and has worked behind the scenes on numerous UK and US elections over the past 20 years.

Now based on Merseyside, Martin is currently supporting a range of clients exploring the opportunities for growth presented by devolution and the Northern Powerhouse.

Martin provides campaign strategy and reputation management counsel, media and stakeholder engagement support and business development consultancy to a range of global and local organisations.

Julie Hilling

Associate Consultant, North West Specialist

Julie Hilling served as MP for the highly marginal seat of Bolton West from 2010 to 2015. A highly active and well respected Member of Parliament, Julie was Chair of both the Rail in the North and the Youth Affairs All Party Groups. She also served on Labour’s Front Bench as an Opposition Whip, with responsibility for Foreign Affairs and International Development, having previously served as Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Women and Equalities Team and on the Transport Select Committee. Her constituency work brought her into contact with a wide range of other issues which she took forward in Parliament, including support for businesses, the control of dangerous dogs and the teaching of emergency first aid in schools.

Julie has substantial experience of community involvement and consultation and of managing change, from both employer and employee perspective. Before entering Parliament she spent most of her professional life as a youth and community worker, and then manager, and latterly as a trade union official working for TSSA, the transport and travel union, and NASUWT, the teachers’ union. Both in and out of Parliament Julie has demonstrated her ability to be a strong leader, an effective team player and somebody who gets things done.

Will Chambré

Associate Consultant, Northern Ireland Specialist

Will is Managing Director of Chambré Public Affairs LLP and has provided a lead role on a series of high-profile accounts including NHBC, BG Group, the Freight Transport Association, ASDA and Asthma UK. With 20 years in public affairs and public relations, Will has an industry-wide reputation for successfully planning and delivering influential communications campaigns.

Will is the driving force behind Chambré Public Affairs with proven ability to raise issues up the policy and news agenda. He initially worked in the House of Commons for a number MPs, before joining the British Gas parliamentary affairs team during the passage of the UK Gas Act 1995. Subsequently, Will worked at the Palace of Westminster-based Future of Europe Trust where he was responsible for organising events for young politicians from across Europe. During his final two years in London he was employed as a public affairs consultant.

On his return to Northern Ireland in 2000, Will worked for a government and media relations agency. There he led a number of successful campaigns for clients that included the Countryside Alliance as well as providing media management support to the Parades Commission.

Will is currently a board member of NB Housing – a community-based Housing Association in North Belfast. He is also a member of Chartered Institute of Public Relations and a past Chairman of the Northern Ireland Government Affairs Group. Will holds a BA Hons degree in History from the University of Sussex.

David Macintosh

Associate Consultant, Scotland Specialist

David has over a decade of experience in corporate communications and crisis management. He delivers public affairs and government relations strategies to clients across a number of sectors including transport, tourism, energy and financial services. Before setting up Dram Communications, David was Head of Public Affairs at BAA Scotland. He has also held senior government affairs roles at Scotland’s national tourism agency, VisitScotland, ScottishPower and the European Commission.

Stuart Bruce

Associate Consultant, Northern Specialist

Stuart Bruce has earned an international reputation as a pioneer, thought-leader and doer in modernised public relations and public affairs. He has 26 years’ experience and was co-founder and CEO of a Leeds-based consultancy that was one of the UK’s first specialist digital PR consultancies and in less than three years grew it into a PRWeek Top 150 Consultancy. His northern-based clients have included First Direct, Carlsberg-Tetley, the NHS, COI, Yorkshire Building Society, Silver Cross, Irwin Mitchell and the University of Leeds.

Stuart served as a councillor for seven years in Leeds, is co-author of two best-selling PR books and is now a visiting lecturer at Leeds Beckett University where he teaches post-graduate qualifications in PR, public affairs and corporate communications. He is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations, Accredited PR Practitioner, elected member of the CIPR national council and founder member of its Social Media Panel.

David Ross

Associate Consultant, Scotland Specialist

As co-founder of Dram Communications, David has extensive corporate communications experience and delivers reputation management and communications strategies to a range of UK and international clients. David works across a range of sectors including energy, retail, infrastructure and business services. Prior to establishing Dram Communications, David was Corporate Communications Project Director at ScottishPower, based in the UK and USA, specialising in investor relations, strategic planning and procurement.

Cathy Owens

Associate Consultant, Wales Specialist

Cathy Owens previously worked as a Special Adviser at the Welsh Government, and played leading roles in the Carwyn Jones leadership campaign as well as the successful Yes for Wales campaign in the 2011 powers referendum. She has recently worked for Amnesty International and spent five years as a public affairs consultant for a wide range of blue chip public and private sector clients.

Nerys Evans

Associate Consultant, Wales Specialist

Nerys Evans served as an Assembly Member for Mid and West Wales between 2007 and 2011, Nerys was Plaid Cymru’s Director of Policy and authored their 2011 Assembly Manifesto. She served on the First Minister Commission on Public Service Governance and Delivery – The Williams Commission, and is a member of Ofcom’s Advisory Committee for Wales. In 2011 she was appointed by the Welsh Government to be an Education Commissioner in Blaenau Gwent County Council and then served on the Ministerial performance board in the County.

Michael Burrell

Associate Consultant, Europe Specialist

One of the most respected figures in public affairs, Michael has held senior roles across a number of international agencies. He has advised a wide range of companies, including BT, Microsoft, Pfizer and Samsung. Michael has been a Chair of the APPC twice, and is a senior adviser to the European Centre for Public Affairs.

Paul Beckford

Associate Consultant, Transport Specialist

Well known throughout the public affairs industry, Paul joined Connect in February 2015 from a transport based consultancy. Paul is an expert on parliamentary process and engagement, and has particular experience of supporting transport, environmental, infrastructure and local government clients. Paul plays an active role in the public affairs industry, and is currently serving as the Chair of the CIPR Public Affairs Group, and previously sat on the APPC’s Management Committee. He was also a founding member of the APPC’s Young Consultants Committee. Paul is currently studying for a PhD in Transport Infrastructure Finance at University College London.

Nicola Davies

Associate Consultant, West Midlands Specialist

Nicola Davies specialises in stakeholder engagement, public affairs strategy, crisis and issues management and media relations.  As Director of Seaborn Communications she has advised a wide client base including energy companies (renewables and LPG), the asset management sector and major development schemes.  She previously spent ten years developing and delivering community affairs best practice within the telecommunications industry working for Orange and later managing external relations for the industry trade association.

She has worked at Westminster for the Liberal Democrats and internationally developing campaign messaging and strategy with liberal parties in Moldova and Morocco. She is an experienced parliamentary candidate having stood in the hard-fought Hodge Hill By-Election against Liam Byrne in 2004.

She has in-depth knowledge of the West Midlands political landscape and is a member of Warwickshire County Council and Vice Chair of Warwickshire Police and Crime Panel.

Gerry Sutcliffe

Associate Consultant, Yorkshire Specialist

Gerry served at the Member of Parliament for Bradford South from 1994 to 2015. He served as a government minister under Prime Ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown; holding positions in the Department of Trade & Industry, Home Office, Ministry of Justice and DCMS. From 2007 to 2010 he served as the UK Minister for Sport.

Prior to entering Parliament, Gerry was Leader of Bradford Metropolitan District Council. Gerry is highly respected across the political spectrum and has an impressive network of contacts across a broad range of sectors. He sits on the Advisory Boards of a number of organisations and is an Honorary Fellow of Bradford College.

In 2015 he co-founded Sutcliffe Swales Consulting, a Yorkshire based political and public affairs consultancy.

Mick Swales

Associate Consultant, Yorkshire Specialist

Mick co-founded Sutcliffe Swales Consulting with Gerry Sutcliffe in 2015, offering a wide range of political and public affairs consultancy services. He served as Senior Political Adviser to Gerry Sutcliffe for 18 years, dividing his time between Yorkshire and Westminster. He served as Operations Director for Alan Johnson in his Labour Deputy Leadership campaign in 2007, and as Deputy Director of Andy Burnham’s Labour Leadership campaign in 2010. He is a former Non-Executive Director of Bradford Bulls RLFC.

Before working in politics, Mick worked in private industry in the IT and technology sectors.

Charlotte Milligan

Associate Consultant, Media Specialist

Charlotte is a professional consultant with a background in the media, working for the BBC and ITV Yorkshire for 20 years as Political Editor and Head of Current Affairs. Charlotte has worked and lived in Yorkshire for 30 years and is a keen advocate and communicator on both the devolution and Northern Powerhouse agenda.

She has also worked in public affairs and is no stranger to Westminster politics, having provided political and media support to Kevin Hollinrake, MP for Thirsk and Malton.  Charlotte also works on the Court of York University and is an expert commentator on how universities can contribute to the devolution agenda.  As a former broadcaster, Charlotte also provides expert and high level media training designed to help senior executives improve their media performance and deliver robust messages under pressure.

Phil Hope

Associate Consultant, Health and Social Care Specialist

Phil Hope is the former Minister of State for Care Services in the Department of Health. His work included development of the National Care Service White Paper, the National Dementia Strategy, the National Mental Health Strategy, and the National Autism Strategy. He is also a former Minister for the Third Sector, with responsibility for charities, social enterprises and social finance.

Phil is now Director of Hope Consultancy and Training and works with charities, the NHS and local authorities, and the private sector to develop new models of care. His advice work seeks to improve the health and wellbeing of vulnerable and older people, reduce the use and costs of unnecessary institutional care, and support sustainable health care systems.

Phil is Visiting Professor at the Institute for Global Health Innovation, Imperial College. He chaired the report ‘Creating Sustainable Health and Care Systems in Ageing Societies’ published for the London Global Health Summit; was a member of the IGHI Global Dementia Working Group; and lectures on the politics of health policy making for the MSc in Health Policy.

John Armstrong

Associate Consultant, North East Specialist

John Armstrong is a public affairs and external relations professional with over twenty years’ experience. Having worked with some of the largest companies in the UK and Europe, he has a proven track record in delivering impactful and deliberative stakeholder engagement campaigns at a local and national level. He has worked for the Guardian as Head of Political Engagement after initially cutting his teeth with Dod’s as their senior Account Director. John returned to his native North East in 2014 where he is now Director and Founder of North Consulting Group Limited. He is a passionate advocate of devolution and decentralised governance, which allows greater responsiveness to local pressures and needs.

Jane Thomas

Associate Consultant, Yorkshire Specialist

Jane Thomas has nearly 20 years experience as a full time campaigner – until recently as Head of the England Team for Friends of the Earth, and before that working on devolution.

Jane started her working life as a lecturer – teaching Politics at both Sheffield Universities before she went off to establish Campaign for the English Regions and run Campaign for Yorkshire.

She has also been involved in a number of referendum campaigns including the NE regional government devolution campaign and leading the Sheffield StrongerIn campaign for the EU referendum.

Jane is a Fellow of the Smith Institute, a Compass Associate and currently sits on the Advisory Board of Our Fair City – the campaign that has developed from the Fairness Commission in Sheffield.

Jane has 3 grown up children, lives in Sheffield with her husband, Bill and is a very fair weathered SWFC fan.

Joanne Rule

Associate Consultant, Health and Social Care Specialist

Joanne is a warm, intuitive, leadership coach who brings deep experience of working across organisational boundaries where being a leader is about influencing, shaping and transforming, rather than ‘managing.’  Her specialist background is in communications/public affairs and she has more than 20 years’ experience of health and social care.  Joanne has held three chief executive/executive chair roles in the not-for-profit sector, non-exec roles in public-private collaborations and has a special interest in using coaching techniques to engage communities and to support innovation. She was appointed MBE for her work on health equalities and is a full member of the Association of Coaching. She is the founder-director of Healthy Conversations.

Joseph Dancey

Associate Consultant, North East Specialist

Joseph Dancey specialises in public affairs, strategic communication, stakeholder relations and reputation management.

Director of Endeavour Advisory, he has provided counsel to a range of clients from multinational companies and SMEs to major foundations and private individuals about regional industrial development and devolution, education and innovation, and the planning and delivery of campaigns in the UK and overseas.

A former government special adviser, he is experienced working on a cross-party basis across parliament for Baroness Valerie Amos and Lord Peter Mandelson. As head of Lord Sebastian Coe’s office at the London 2012 Olympic Organising Committee, Joseph led the Chairman’s speechwriting, briefing, stakeholder liaison and prioritisation of the nations and regions programme.  He works mainly between the North East and London.

Paul Thompson

Associate Consultant, Energy and Infrastructure Specialist

Paul has deep experience across the political, corporate, regulatory, public and third sectors and focuses on energy and infrastructure. His focus is to protect and expand commercial ambitions, defend and promote organisations’ reputations, and ensure their views are heard by those influencing the future.

Recently he founded Mercury Political Relations, and has worked on developing the narrative and thinking on the UK’s industrial strategy for a national organisation. He has also trained clients on how to execute effective political engagement. He has over 17 years of experience of managing teams to tackle significant threats to an organisation’s commercial goals or political reputation and is skilled in creating proactive opportunities to better position organisations.

Previous experience includes Head of Parliamentary Affairs at National Grid plc (FTSE 25) and public affairs roles at Ofcom; Arts Council England and the National Audit Office.

Paul Hackett

Associate Consultant, Policy Specialist

Paul Hackett is Director of the Smith Institute and a former government adviser on the world of work, housing, public services and economic development. He has extensive knowledge and insights into the workings of Westminster and Whitehall and provides advice on political and public policy matters. He regularly chairs and speaks at seminars and events and has published various articles and reports. Paul was special adviser to John Prescott, the Deputy Prime Minister (between 1997-2005), and prior to that former adviser to House of Commons Trade & Industry team and OECD.  Paul has also worked at the Trades Union Congress. the FT, PwC, and the Economist Group.

Peter Kenway

Associate Consultant, Policy Specialist

Peter, an economist and statistician with degrees from Cambridge and London Universities, is co-founder and director of the New Policy Institute, an independent think tank specialising in data-rich analysis and commentary on UK society and its economy. Over its 20 years, NPI has produced nearly 200 reports for a wide range of funders, including local government, trade unions and anti-poverty charitable foundations.

A frequent public speaker, lecturer and commentator, Peter is a regular contributor of written and oral evidence to Parliamentary Committees across the UK. In the last parliament, he was a member of the Steering Group for Lord Low’s Review of the removal of DLA mobility from disabled people in state-funded care. He has been a member of the Welsh Government’s Child Poverty Expert Group. He served as a special adviser to the House of Lords Committee on the Barnett Formula.

 

Paul Hunter

Associate Consultant, Policy Specialist

Paul is Head of Research at the Smith Institute. With over ten years experience Paul has worked with numerous researchers and sponsors to deliver innovative, insightful and influential research. Paul’s policy interests include poverty, the labour market, economic geography and housing. He has recently written reports on: 2015 general election; poverty in suburbia; the living wage; the future of council housing; wealth inequality; and the private rented sector. He has also help lead commissions into council housing and the world of work and brought together many of the Smith Institute’s collections of essays. He has contributed to a book on the future of the left, the Socialist Way, edited by Roy Hattersley and Kevin Hickson and has written for a variety of publications and blogs. Prior to joining the Smith Institute Paul worked for an MP.




The DevoConnect Network will continue to grow and attract the best comms practitioners in the business and help you connect to the UK and influence change.

If you want to find out more about the DevoConnect Network and find the best people to meet your communication needs locally, regionally or nationally, please contact us via the link below.

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