Our Commissioners

The Commission on Poverty and Regional Inequality is led by Councillor Nick Forbes. The Commission is supported by 8 commissioners who are leading experts, campaigners, and activists with a wide range of experience, including experience of poverty. Our chair and commissioners are serving in a personal capacity.

Other commissioners will be announced shortly.

Nick Forbes

Commission Chair, former leader of Newcastle City Council , and former senior vice chair of the LGA

Nick Forbes is a Labour politician and was leader of Newcastle City Council between 2011 and 2022. Nick made economic growth a key feature of his council, securing new financial powers by negotiating one of the first round of City Deals with government and has been instrumental in securing a devolution deal for the North of Tyne. He played a leading role in raising the profile of local government in a time of austerity and has been involved in national lobbying efforts for successive local government finance settlements. He served as Business Competitiveness portfolio holder for the North of Tyne Combined Authority and as chair of Core Cities UK. At a national level, Nick was the leader of Labour in local government, heading up the Local Government Association (LGA) Labour Group, representing the views of more than 6000 Labour Councillors in Westminster – and was a member of Labour’s ruling National Executive Committee.

Anela Anwar

Chief Executive, Zacchaeus 2000 Trust

Anela is the Chief Executive of the Zacchaeus 2000 Trust (Z2K), a charity addressing poverty in London caused by unfairness in the legal, social security & housing systems. Anela was previously Head of Programmes and Partnerships (Domestic Poverty) at Oxfam GB working on economic inequality, women’s economic empowerment and decent work.

Anela graduated with an honours degree in Law, after which she worked in the third sector on a diverse range of issues such as violence against women and girls, community development, youth empowerment and participation. She is a dedicated intersectional feminist and is passionate about ensuring experts by experience are at the heart of decision-making.

Stef Benstead

Researcher in social policy and disability

Stef Benstead is an independent researcher in social policy and disability. Her background in research started at the University of Cambridge, where she took her undergraduate degree and
started a PhD. Her interest in social policy and disability stems from her own energy-limiting chronic illness, which forced her to withdraw from her PhD. Since then she was worked with a number of organisations including the Spartacus Network, Ekklesia, Centre for Welfare Reform, Chronic Illness Inclusion and the University of Leeds. In 2019 Ms Benstead released a book, Second Class Citizens, detailing the treatment of sick and disabled people in the UK and in particular the impact of narratives of welfare dependency, neoliberalism and austerity.

Gary Ellis

Chief Executive, Coalfields Regeneration Trust

Having started his career with British Coal where he gained his professional qualification as an accountant, Gary has worked in the public, private and third sector where he has gained extensive experience in change management, governance and organisational development. Gary took up the position of Chief Executive in November 2010 and with the Board of Trustees and senior management team led the Trust through a transformational programme that resulted in the Trust becoming a financially self –sustaining organisation. The health and wellbeing inequalities for former mining communities are well documented and the recent pandemic has exacerbated these further and the need to address the root causes.

Anand Menon

Professor of European Politics and Foreign Affairs, Kings College London

Anand Menon is Professor of European Politics and Foreign Affairs at Kings College London. He also directs the UK in a Changing Europe project (www.ukandeu.ac.uk). His areas of research interest include the policies and institutions of the European Union, European security, and British politics. He contributes regularly to both print and broadcast media. He is co-editor of the Oxford Handbook of the European Union (OUP, 2012), and co-author of Brexit and British Politics (Polity 2018). He is a trustee of Full Fact, a member of the Strategic Council of the European Policy Centre, a Council member of the European Council on Foreign Relations and an associate fellow of Chatham House.

Nick Phillips

Former Coordinator, London Unemployed Strategies

Nick has been a youth and community worker for 40 years, managing community centres and doing group work in deprived inner-city areas all over London. He also made films with and for community groups for several years on topics such as looked after young people, BAME carers and a trilogy on BAME young people, the police and race relations in Stonebridge (London), Paris and New York. After 8 years, Nick has stepped down as coordinator of London Unemployed Strategies (LUS), a project funded by the London, East and South-East Region of the TUC, Trust for London and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. LUS develops claimants’ peer support groups. It also campaigns to give a voice to unemployed people in London and works with the DWP, Citizens Advice and other agencies to provide more help and less harassment for the unemployed.

Andrés Rodriguez Pose

Princesa de Asturias Chair and Professor of Economic Geography, LSE

Andrés Rodríguez-Pose holds the Princesa de Asturias Chair and a professorship of Economic Geography at the London School of Economics (LSE), where he has taught since 1995. He also holds a  visiting Chair in Innovation at the University of Stavanger, Norway. At the LSE he was director of the Department of Geography and Environment. He has also been President and Vice President of the Regional Science Association International (RSAI) and Vice President and Secretary of the European Regional Science Association (ERSA). He is a recipient of numerous international awards, such as the ERSA Regional Science Award (considered the highest award in its field), the Royal Society-Wolfson Research Merit Award or the Philip Leverhulme Award and was a holder of an European Research Council (ERC) advanced grant. He is Doctor Honoris Causa by the Universities of Utrecht (Netherlands) and Jönköping (Sweden).

Liz Sayce

Visiting Senior Fellow, LSE

Liz Sayce is a Visiting Senior Fellow at the London School of Economics and was Chief Executive of Disability Rights UK (and its legacy charity Radar) from 2007- 2017, where she led work for equal participation for all, through programmes on independent living, career opportunities and shifts in cultural attitudes and behaviour. She chaired the Commission for Equality in Mental Health, hosted by the Centre for Mental Health, 2019-21. She is a Trustee of ADD (Action on Disability and Development) and a member of the Disability Advisory Committee of the Equality and Human Rights Commission. Previous roles include Policy Director at the Disability Rights Commission and at Mind. She led an Independent Review into disability employment programmes for Government in 2011 and has published widely on mental health, disability and social participation. She undertook a Harkness Fellowship in the USA resulting in a book (From Psychiatric Patient to Citizen, 2000 – updated in 2016).

Katie Schmuecker

Principal Policy Adviser, Joseph Roundtree Foundation

Katie is Principal Policy Adviser at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF), where she leads the organisation’s policy development to ensure more people find a route out of poverty through work, more affordable housing and an effective social security system. She is one of the authors of JRF’s ‘We Can Solve Poverty’ report and her expertise spans work; poverty; income adequacy; welfare to work; and the cost of living. She is a regular commentator in the media, through blogs, articles and broadcast appearances. She is also a member of the Scottish Poverty and Inequality Commission. Prior to joining JRF Katie was Associate Director at the Institute for Public Policy Research North (IPPR North) where she carried out research and authored reports on regional economic development, neighbourhood renewal and UK devolution. She has also worked for the Campaign for the English Regions, the Yes campaign for an elected North East Regional Assembly and for an MP.

Reverend Andrew Yates

Social Responsibility Officer, Diocese of Truro and Priest, Penlee Cluster of Churches

Andrew has worked as the Social Responsibility Officer for the church in Cornwall for 18 years. Cornwall is a place full of contrasts. Alongside the holiday image of beautiful beaches, there is much hidden poverty. Significant factors are a low wage hospitality economy, high housing costs and rural isolation. He is co-chair of the Cornwall Independent Poverty Forum, which aims to raise awareness around issues of social exclusion, support projects working to reduce poverty and challenge the structures that keep people there. The parishes where he ministers include communities amongst the highest deprivation in Cornwall and he is also involved in the Cornwall Food Access Alliance which brings together the key organisations partnering to tackle the scandal of food poverty.

The Poverty and Regional Inequality Commission is supported by the Joseph Roundtree Foundation, Trust for London, the City of London Corporation, and Dartmouth Street Trust.