Women leaders top King’s Birthday Honours

Emma Degg

Prominent women business leaders in the North West topped the list of honours in the King’s Birthday Honours list.

Emma Degg, chief executive of the North West Business Leadership Team received an MBE and posted an emotional and heartfelt  tribute to the “North West massive” on LinkedIn.

Emma Degg, who has been CEO of NWBLT for the last 9 years following a career within local government and the North West Development Agency has spent her career focused on bringing together business leaders and policymakers to make a tangible difference across the North West, in local government, and nationally.

Her award particularly recognises her considerable efforts and impact to support the region during the Covid 19 crisis, together with her contribution to the region’s response to the invasion of Ukraine through the ‘United for Ukraine’ platform.

Beyond her professional role, Emma is a Trustee of We Mind the Gap, a charity focused on changing young lives through paid traineeships that include work experience and skills development.

Emma is also a board member at Best for Britain, the better democracy campaign organisation.

Simone Peppi, Chair of the NWBLT, expressed her heartfelt congratulations to Emma: “We are incredibly proud of Emma for receiving this well-deserved honour. Her tireless efforts and passionate advocacy have had a profound impact on our region, driving positive change and inspiring others to follow in her footsteps. Emma’s leadership has been a beacon of excellence, and this recognition is a testament to her outstanding contributions.”

Emma said: “I know that I am very privileged to be employed to do what I love. This award is obviously not a result of my efforts – but due to the amazing collaborations my job enables me to bring together. For anyone feeling down about how fractured the world and our country can currently seem, I would suggest just look around at the dedicated, talented people that choose to make the North West their home – whatever their job title – so often driven by a desire to deliver positive change.

“In the end I have always found if people can help they will. It is why the politics of division never work in the long run.

“I have learned that you only really know the strength of your networks when the going gets tough. John Lennon said that ‘life is what happens to you when you’re busy making plans’. Those who know me well are aware that currently I am being supported by the leaders of the North West Business Leadership Team to be where I most need to be – supporting my family at a difficult time. Again, a privilege that all too few carers can enjoy – but responsible leadership in action that means the world to me.”

Thanking colleagues on LinkedIn she added: “I will never forget the kindness of the North West Massive.”

A former director at Salford City Council has been awarded the MBE.

Debbie Brown was a Strategic Director for Service Reform and received the award for her time at the council where she helped ensure the council put people at the heart of everything the council does, listening to local people’s voices and shaped services to meet their needs.

She said: “I am deeply honoured and thrilled to have been recognised in this way. It’s testament to the hard work, energy and commitment from teams and elected members across the council and a fantastic community and voluntary sector in the city that enabled everything that was achieved.”

Salford City Mayor, Paul Dennett, said: “Debbie played a significant role in the direction of the city and city council, from improving the council’s digital inclusion and innovation within the city, working in partnership with our university and hospital to helping develop the city council’s long standing strategic relationship with our Credit Union. Importantly, Debbie was also the senior officer participant in the city’s first Poverty Truth Commissioner and as a commissioner utilised this experience to transform services within the city council, while also informing our pioneering work on tackling poverty.”

Denise Harrison has been awarded an MBE for her career-long dedication to the bus industry.

She is currently Head of Health and Safety at First Bus and has recently surpassed 40 years’ service. She began her career as a catering assistant at Ashton-under Lyne Bus Station in Greater Manchester before becoming one of just six female bus drivers in a depot of more than 400 and a real trailblazer for other women to follow in the industry. Denise soon progressed into management roles before specialising in health and safety.

Denise is also Vice Chair of the Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT), an organisation that strives to keep on improving health and safety standards throughout the bus industry.

She said: “It’s absolutely crazy. I was in shock, I just turned to my husband and said ‘I think I’ve been nominated for an MBE. I think we’re going to Buckingham Palace!’ It’s an honour to be recognised for spending my entire career working and caring about the bus industry. I’m proud of myself.

“First Bus has been kind to me over the years. They’ve allowed me the time to gain qualifications and have trusted me to be my authentic self to achieve my goals.”

Shalni Arora, CEO of Savannah Wisdom, a private family charitable foundation, and an investor in life science businesses has been awarded an OBE for her charitable works.

From the family that founded discount retailer B+M, as well as successfully building DxS, a biotech business, most recently she has emerged as one of the investors in Altrincham Football Club.

Other awards for business people in the region went to: 

Lancashire’s John Heffernan, Managing Director, Fern Innovation Ltd for services to Business and to Technology. 

Professor Paul Howarth FREng, Chief Executive Officer, National Nuclear Laboratory was recognised for services to the Energy Sector.

Michael Hawes, Chief Executive Officer, Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders. For services to the Automotive Industry.

Shiraz Master, founder and Managing Director, Simply Doughnuts. For services to the Promotion of Food and Drink, to Business and to Philanthropy.

Victoria Jayne Moorby Head of Marketing, Oxley Group, for services to the Defence and Aerospace Industry.

Helen Tonks Founder and Director, Hydraulics Online, for services to Business and to Exports.

Wayne Wild

Wayne Wild, commercial director of engineering group WEC and chair of the Darwen Town Deal, and Chair and Trustee, Blackburn and Darwen Youth Zone was recognised for his services to Young People and to the community in Darwen, Lancashire.

In local government there were OBE’s for Alison McKenzie-Folan, the Chief Executive, Wigan Borough Council for services to Local Government; and Councillor Lynn Williams the Labour leader of Blackpool Council.

Furqan Naeem, the founding organiser of Greater Manchester Citizens was given an MBE for services to Interfaith Relations and to the community in Greater Manchester.

Sally MacDonald, Director of the Science and Industry Museum in Manchester has been awarded an OBE for services to the arts and heritage in the 2024 King’s Birthday Honours list.

Sally, who grew up in Withington, Manchester, has led the museum for the last ten years, securing over £40m to date to spearhead the repair and regeneration of its globally significant site for everyone who lives in and visits the city. 

Sally says “it’s a great recognition of the wonderful work of everyone at the museum and all our partners across the city and beyond. We are all passionate about the role that museums and heritage can play in inspiring the next generation of innovators and creating opportunities for young people to realise the future ideas that will change the world”. 

Also awarded in the cultural sector were Karen Charters, the head of International Slavery Museum, National Museums Liverpool, and the Oldham born actor and cultural champion Shobna Gulati for her services to the Cultural Industries.

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