Coventry business leader declared High Sheriff of West Midlands

Louise Bennett OBE

A leading business figure in the region has been appointed as High Sheriff of the County of West Midlands.

Louise Bennett OBE DL, chief executive of the Coventry & Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce, was appointed to one of the oldest ceremonial positions in the UK during a virtual Declaration Ceremony, led by Her Majesty’s Lord-Lieutenant and Mr Justice Jeremy Baker, Presider of the West Midlands Circuit.

Over 180 people were invited to witness the historic proceedings which were broadcast from the Chamber offices. Guests also had the opportunity to see a preview of Coventry 2021 – UK City of Culture, by Martin Sutherland, chief executive of the Coventry City of Culture Trust.

Bennett, who has been chief executive of the Chamber of Commerce since 2003, said she was looking to bring a fresh, modern perspective to the office of High Sheriff and make it more inclusive, while adding value to the region.

As part of her shrieval year she says she will focus on recognising the importance of leadership in business and the community and providing opportunities for young people, with an emphasis on those in care system.

It is also the first time in 21 years a representative from Coventry has taken the regional role since David Burbidge CBE DL who was a previous High Sheriff of the West Midlands and is now chairman of the Coventry City of Culture Trust.

The mother-of-two, who has also been a foster carer for the past eight years, will also promote the importance of investing in children and young people, in particular the thousands of vulnerable individuals in the care system.

She said: “The primary role of the office of the High Sheriff is to support the judiciary, so one of my early priorities will be to reach out to our courts, the police, prison service and probation among others, to see how we can all work more closely together to improve opportunities for all young people, achieving positive outcomes.

“Similarly, we will be looking to promote the importance of leadership and will give focus to some of those unsung leaders in our communities.”

Bennett is one of just 55 High Sheriffs serving the counties of England and Wales in the year-long appointment.

An independent, non-political Royal appointment the role dates back to Saxon times when the Shire reeve was responsible for maintaining law and order within a shire.

Historically, the role also involved collecting taxes due to the Monarch.

Over the years the role has evolved and today focuses on work with crime prevention agencies, the emergency services and the voluntary sector.