After retiring from a long career as a corporate tax lawyer, Miles Walton’s return to the North East led him into an entirely different career altogether. His working life is now heavily linked to helping other businesses in the region and he tells us more about his background, his role on the Management team and his hopes for the future of the Forum.
What’s your role in the NTBF management team?
While the Business Forum and the North Shields Business Chamber are two distinct organisations, my role on the management team enables me to get the best out of both and make sure the two groups support each other.
As chair of the North Shields Business Chamber, I’m in a great position, working on the ground with businesses in the town to represent North Shields within the Forum as well as representing the Forum out on the street. I’m happy to work on specific projects within the Forum management team and having a link between the Forum and the Chamber just makes coherent sense in so many ways.
I work closely with the Wallsend and Whitley Bay Chambers too, so when the three chairs of the Chambers approached the Business Forum about being involved, David Bavaird, the Forum Chair, saw the sense in opening up communications with three influential organisations and working together. That was about 12 months ago and we’re thoroughly enjoying being part of the Business Forum management team.
Tell us a little more about your background
I have a couple of strings to my bow!
Firstly, I’m a retired corporate tax lawyer – I spent many years living and working in London as a partner in one of the ‘magic circle’ law firms. As part of that role, I advised big businesses about tax, working mainly with the banks – but don’t hold that against me!
When I retired from that in 2010, I came back to North Tyneside with my wife and we now run a property letting business together. We have properties in various parts of the country, as well as some abroad, which we let out as residential and corporate spaces.
Our registered office is in North Shields and we combine working in the town with working from our home next to the sea in Whitley Bay – it’s the best of all worlds.
The other string to my bow is my involvement with the North Shields Business Chamber, where I’m chair. As part of my role within the Chamber, I work with many of the businesses in North Shields to improve the area, attract new businesses and visitors into the town and generally make the best of North Shields as a destination to live, work and visit.
Does your role on the team create connections for you in business and indeed in your life outside the Forum?
With my chair of the Chamber hat on, being involved in the Business Forum management team is fantastic. It means I have a deeper pool of local business contacts in my network.
I get to share Chamber activities with the Forum and, in turn, I spread the word about Forum events, activities and benefits to the Chamber members too. Having an open channel of communication between the two organisations works brilliantly – and long may it continue.
From a personal business perspective, it’s not massively relevant to my property business because most of our properties are outside of the local area. However, my experience in the field of commercial business letting does mean I’m ideally placed to help with any projects or issues that arise relating to commercial properties and lettings.
How do you see the Forum developing in the future?
I’m a huge fan of the Business Forum model and I’d love to see it developing positively in years to come. While the individual Chambers deal with business issues in a local vicinity, the Forum is ideally placed to deal with business issues on a borough-wide basis.
I do have a couple of areas in which I’d like to see the Forum become more involved.
The first is local education. I’ve felt for years that there is a lack of information getting into primary schools. By the time youngsters get to high schools in particular, it can already be too late to open their minds to what the world of work and business is really like. Primary school aged children are like sponges. They soak up information and look at the world with open minds. This age is the ideal time to start sowing seeds about the alternatives to ‘traditional’ jobs
Without outside intervention, children have a narrow view of the world of business and work, depending on what their parents and wider families do for a living. I’d like to see the Forum work with schools and present these kids with wider possibilities for when they grow up
The second area I’d like to see development in is working on our contacts and networks on a national basis. I’ve felt, for many years, that the North East doesn’t get a fair crack of the whip when it comes to things like funding because we don’t have a direct representative within the Government and throughout the rest of the country.
Some parts of the country are represented by former MPs, cabinet members or senior civil servants and they know exactly whom to contact in relation to funding and other regional matters. While our Mayor is fantastic and really champions the region, we need to develop more influence with central decision-makers; getting things done for North Tyneside is often an uphill struggle.
I think the Forum is well placed to move forward on that. I’m under no illusion that it can happen overnight, but better to start the process now.
Finally, I’d like to see the Forum encouraging some of the big local and national businesses in the borough to pull their weight in terms of business sector development. At the moment, it seems to be all the smaller, home-grown businesses who are doing all the heavy lifting to develop the local economy and nurture the business community. And while there are some larger companies in the borough who do amazing work to support this area, there is also a great number of others, sometimes multi-nationals, with a base in the borough, which don’t always realise that it would also be in their interests to be more involved in promoting the area.