Connecting the UK

Bringing together the best consultancy practitioners across the UK.



Devo Connect Northern Powerhouse and Midlands Engine

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.

Martin Liptrot

Liverpool and North West Communications Associate Consultant

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

Manchester, North West and Transport Specialist Associate Consultant

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.

Stuart Bruce

Our Leeds, Sheffield and Yorkshire Communications

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.

Nicola Davies

West Midlands Associate Consultant

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

Yorkshire and Communications Associate Consultant

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

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

Media and Communications Associate

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.

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.

John Armstrong

Communications and Media Associate

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 and 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.



Devo Connect Scotland

David Macintosh

Associate Consultant

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.

David Ross

Associate Consultant

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.



Devo Connect Wales

Cathy Owens

Associate Consultant

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

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.



Devo Connect Northern Ireland

Will Chambré

Northern Ireland Associate

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.



Devo Connect

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 now provides rigorous policy analysis to many of Connect’s clients with a northern focus and also acts as the Secretariat of the Yorkshire and Northern Lincolnshire All Party Parliamentary Group.

Michael Burrell

Westminster and Europe and Media Specialist Associate Consultant

One of the most respected figures in public affairs, Michael joined the Connect board as a non-executive Director in 2013 to provide senior counsel and support to our staff and clients. Having 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.

Helen Johnson

Health and Social Care Specialist Associate Consultant

Helen provides senior counsel, advising our staff and clients, as well as serving as a non-exec Director on the Connect board. She brings more than twenty years’ industry and agency experience of healthcare regulation, law, policy and market access issues. A former Chair of the Association of Professional Political Consultants, Helen is managing director of HJCL, Connect’s healthcare associate.

Tom Mludzinski

Opinion Polling and Perceptions Specialist ComRes Associate

Tom leads on ComRes’s high profile media and political work. Specialising in quantitative polling, Tom is responsible for all of ComRes’s work for media clients including ITV, BBC, CNN, The Daily Mail and Sunday Mirror. Tom also drives polling for clients designed to assist in lobbying, influencing strategies and opinions as well as achieving media coverage.

Overseeing much of ComRes’s international work, Tom delivers strategic recommendations based on public and elite opinion research for a range of organisations including large multi-national companies and campaign organisations.
Tom frequently sits on panels, gives presentations and appears in the media as a commentator on politics, policy and public opinion, providing insight and analysis on topical issues.

Paul Beckford

Transport and Westminster 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.

Phil Hope

Policy and Ministerial Associate Consultant

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.

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.




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 HERE.

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