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Alan Gay OBE - BA (Hons) Economics & Public Policy, 1978

Alan Gay OBE was born and brought up in the North East, near Newcastle and came to study BA (Hons) in Economics and Public Policy at what was then Leeds Polytechnic in 1975.


Image of Leeds Town Hall on summers day

Alan Gay OBE was born and brought up in the North East, near Newcastle and came to study BA (Hons) in Economics and Public Policy at what was then Leeds Polytechnic in 1975. He graduated in 1978 and was taken on as a trainee accountant at Leeds City Council where he continued his studies. He qualified as an accountant in 1981 and enjoyed a long and successful career within local government.

Alan explains: “It was a new course and whilst I had never done economics before I liked the sound of it. I had no great vocational calling in life, I simply knew that I wanted to get a degree to improve my future career prospects and this one fit the bill. I knew Leeds a bit already and was attracted to it as a place to live; it was far enough away from home to be independent but close enough to get back when I needed to. The three years I had as a student were really transformative for me. It is a huge step to leave home and leave independently.

“The degree covered a wide range of topics which I found really stimulating, from statistics to macroeconomics to political philosophy. The course also sparked an enthusiasm in me for public service and, in particular, local government. It was quite fortuitous that one of my lecturers had had a career in local government in Leeds before becoming a teacher, and he suggested to me in my final year that this was a potential career choice.

“I got to know so many different people when I came to Leeds, and for the first time in my life I engaged with people much older than me as peers. Some of the fellow students whom I met in the first weeks and months at Leeds have remained my closest friends to this day.

“So, my degree choice ended up being extremely relevant to my career choice even though it didn’t start out that way. I think it is true to say that my degree gave me an excellent grounding for a career in finance in a political organisation. A relevant degree is not necessary, but I certainly felt it helped me a lot.”

Since then Alan has worked in local government for almost 40 years becoming Finance Director and later Deputy Chief Executive of Leeds City Council. In that time, he played a key role in supporting and financing some of the biggest developments and events in the history of Leeds, including the Grand Depart of the Tour De France in 2014, and the construction of the first direct arena in 2013.

Alan explains: “Becoming the Finance Director of one of the largest local authorities in the country, was a very proud achievement. I am honoured that councillors and officers at the Council had the confidence in me to appoint me to that position. I held that position, along with other many responsibilities, for 18 years.

“Leeds has developed into a very successful city over the past few decades and I am proud of the contribution I have made. There are many great infrastructure projects in the city where I have taken a very active role, like the building of an arena, waste recycling facilities, flood alleviation measures, and so on. I haven’t built them, but I have helped find ways to fund them.

“The period from 2010 onwards was a very challenging time with austerity measures which severely reduced local authority funding; I am very proud of the role I played in managing these funding reductions, making sure that key public services were maintained and that vulnerable people in our society remained a priority.

“After I retired from the Council in 2017, I was awarded an OBE for my services to local government. This was a great honour and a fantastic day for me and for my family. I am still active in local government providing advice and support to councils in what continue to be very challenging times for them.”

In addition to his ongoing consultancy work with local councils, Alan is still active within the Leeds Beckett Community, and was appointed as a Governor of the university in 2019. He is also a trustee and board member of the Leeds Grand Theatre and Opera House.

“It is a real pleasure and a privilege to be involved with the university in this way more than 40 years after I graduated. Despite the time that has passed I still feel a very strong bond with the institution, and I am eager for it to succeed.

“Our main focus is to make sure that Leeds Beckett University provides high quality education which is matched to the skills needs of the local, regional and national economy, and is seen as an institution of choice for those who are seeking to further their education.

“I also hope that it can continue to be as formative and positive a personal experience for students as it was for me all those years ago.”

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