The Power List 2016

Who are the most influential people in Tunbridge Wells?

In Tunbridge Wells and the surrounding areas, there are many influential and powerful people who impact the lives of residents and visitors every day. Here, we’ve compiled a list of 15 such people, who have each earned their place on the power list due to their ability to influence local lifestyles. The following are arranged in alphabetical order – we wouldn’t want the power to go to their heads now, would we?

William Benson

CEO of Tunbridge Wells Borough Council – William Benson
Behind every successful local authority there’s someone making sure it all happens. In the case of Tunbridge Wells, that person is William Benson, who stepped into the role of CEO in 2009, having been deputy chief executive. He’s responsible for the day-to-day running of the council and has led on a number of major projects. He was instrumental in overseeing a process that saw the council’s independent audit commission assessment improve from a rating of ‘weak’ to ‘excellent’. Tunbridge Wells is one of only two councils to achieve such a distinction.

Greg Clark

MP for Tunbridge Wells – Greg Clark
Conservative MP Greg Clark is the town’s leading political figure, and when he’s not working on helping out his constituents, he’s in Parliament, as Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy – a position he was appointed into in July by the new Prime Minister, Theresa May. He has held a series of ministerial posts all of which have centred around his knowledge of decentralisation and economic growth in cities. He was elected MP for Tunbridge Wells in 2005 and lives in the town with his wife and three children.

Lee Colyer

Director of Finance & Corporate Services – Lee Colyer
As statutory Section 151 Officer, Lee Colyer is Tunbridge Wells Borough Council’s chief advisor on all financial and governance matters and a member of the council’s management board. In his role, he is responsible for accountancy, exchequer, internal audit, democratic management and legal services. He is the main man when it comes to making financial decisions, such as whether to invest £7million in the Royal Victoria Place redevelopment and working out where taxpayer’s money is best used.

Glenn Douglas

CEO of Maidstone & Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust – Glenn Douglas
The responsibility rests with this man when it comes to the running of our local hospitals – including the one in Tunbridge Wells. As the ‘accountable officer’, Glenn Douglas is in charge of the overall development and performance of the trust. This year, he oversaw the introduction of the dedicated children’s A&E at Tunbridge Wells Hospital – the first of its kind in Kent, which is dedicated solely to providing emergency care to patients under the age of 16. Glenn is a qualified accountant and member of the Institute of Health Services Managers, and Glenn is also a governor of a local school.

Tanya Gerrard-White

Director of HR and Talent Development for Markerstudy Group – Tanya Gerrard-White
Best known for its insurance and leisure brands, the Markerstudy Group of Companies has almost 4,000 employees in the UK and is one of the largest employers in Kent. At the helm of HR, talent acquisition and the development side of the group is Tanya. Drawing the best talent from the borough and the UK into the business which boasts a turnover of in excess of £2.5 billon, she’s renowned for her infectious enthusiasm and drive, and recently launched a new apprenticeship scheme, ALEX, which has taken on 11 school leavers in the Tunbridge Wells area alone.

Keith Gibbs

Chief Executive of AXA PPP – Keith Gibbs
This is the man responsible for the biggest number of staff in Tunbridge Wells – 2,700. Keith Gibbs is also the person who kept those staff jobs in the town when, six years ago, the borough council and AXA were both looking to buy the empty Land Registry office.

For a while it seemed AXA might leave Tunbridge Wells; then the council pulled out of the deal. AXA PPP is the healthcare arm of AXA in the UK. Keith Gibbs, a maths graduate from the University of Kent, became its chief executive in 2001. He is also responsible for Sun Life, the direct life business of AXA in the UK.

Michele Harriman-Smith Childrensalon

CEO of Childrensalon – Michele Harriman-Smith
Founded in 1952 by Michele’s mother Sybil Harriman, Childrensalon is now the largest global e-tailer for luxury clothing for kids. The company has rapidly expanded and they now have six warehouses and over 230 members of staff, with the business shipping to 160 countries and carrying over 270 brands. Last year they clocked up numerous accoldaes, including making the list on the Sunday Times Fast Track 100 for the third year in a row, and securing a place on the London Stock Exchange 1000 Companies to Inspire Britain list.

Rachel Jenman

Tunbridge Wells Town Centre Manager – Rachel Jenman
Rachel Jenman is the new figurehead of the Royal Tunbridge Wells Together (RTWT) partnership, which is aiming to boost the viability of the town centre. The organisation is made up of local businesses and the borough council. Having previously been town centre manager for Strood and Tiverton in Devon, Rachel is now in charge of increasing footfall in Tunbridge Wells and creating ways to encourage people to visit the town to shop and socialise.

Olga Johnson

Nourish Food Bank co-chairs – Olga Johnson and Paul Haines
A service that has certainly touched the lives of many residents is the Nourish Food Bank, which was set up because the founders believe ‘no one need be hungry in Tunbridge Wells.’ From April 2015 to March 2016, 3,141 people in crisis in Tunbridge Wells and surrounding areas were provided with three days’ emergency food, and, unlike other food banks across the country, Nourish provides a doorstep delivery to ensure confidentiality.

The charity’s services have been so in demand, that this month sees them expand their services to Tonbridge.

David Jukes

Leader of Tunbridge Wells borough council – David Jukes
As leader of the Conservatives, the buck stops with Councillor David Jukes him when it comes to the council’s £70million budget to provide local services and its assets of more than £100million. He was invited to join Speldhurst parish council in 1988 and served for 20 years. Cllr Jukes was elected to the borough council (Speldhurst and Bidborough Ward) in 1990 and intended to serve for just six months but 26 years on he’s still one of the town’s biggest power forces.

Christopher Nevill

6th Marquess of Abergavenny – Christopher Nevill
Aside from the title, Christopher Nevill is one of the biggest local land owners with his 3,000-acre Eridge Park reported to have 100 cottages and homes worth more than £50million. The country estate has been in the family since the Norman Conquest, and is now a popular wedding venue and country pursuit location. Christopher Nevill also happens to own the Lower Pantiles, which houses the Corn Exchange, Royal Victoria House, the Auction House and Sussex Mews as well as shops, offices and flats.

Julia Soyke

Chairman of the Tunbridge Wells Planning Committee – Julia Soyke
After many years serving as a parish councillor, Julia was elected in to Tunbridge Wells Borough Council in 2010, representing the ward of Speldhurst and Bidborough. As chair of the planning committee, she is responsible for many of the big decisions made in the town when it comes to construction and events. This year she also became deputy mayor of Tunbridge Wells. Outside of her TWBC duties, she also runs a B&B and farm, and is actively involved in other community groups and campaigns.

David Statham

Managing Director of Southeastern – David Statham
One thing that certainly impacts many people’s lives is their daily commute, and David Statham is the man at the forefront of Southeastern’s rail network. Having been appointed into the MD position two years ago, following a 22 year career in railways, he pledged to make ‘big changes’ when he took over. And, while 95.7million travelled on the network in the past six months, with 0.182 complaints per 1,000 passengers during that period, rail improvement works and disruption on the lines has led to poor customer satisfaction ratings, and even Greg Clark has demanded a better service for his unhappy constituents.

Corin Thoday

CEO of Targetfollow – Corin Thoday
As CEO of Targetfollow – the company who owns the Upper Pantiles and also Tunbridge Wells and Rusthall Common, Corin Thoday’s actions and decisions impact the lives of Tunbridge Wells residents and visitors on a daily basis. Decisions over which retailers can trade from The Pantiles, and which events benefit the community are all made by the company. Corin also sits on the Royal Tunbridge Wells together board – a group formed to connect the town and promote businesses within it.

Stewart Wingate

Gatwick CEO – Stewart Wingate
It’s not often Gatwick is out of the news, as speculation continues over whether a second runway will be built there and politicians debate the logistics. Stewart Wingate, who has been CEO of Gatwick since 2009 has been instrumental in campaigning for the runway at Gatwick. He’s also the man who decides whether technology, such as precision navigation is used and introduces new flight routes. Stewart is a chartered engineer and fellows of both the Institute of Engineering and Technology and the Chartered Institute of Marketing.