A NORTH-EAST philanthropist is to have a say in how best to shape the future of the North-East economy.

Jonathan Ruffer, chairman of the trust which owns Auckland Castle, in Bishop Auckland, and is founder of investment company Ruffer LLP, has accepted an invitation from the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) to join the North-East economic review team.

He takes over the position vacated by the Bishop of Durham, the Right Reverend Justin Welby, who has had to step down since being named the next Archbishop of Canterbury.

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Mr Ruffer set up Ruffer Investment Management in 1994, which now manages over £13bn from its offices in London, Edinburgh and Hong Kong.

He is well-known for his philanthropy, particularly in County Durham and last year he donated £15m to help buy Auckland Castle and the Zurbaran paintings.

The North East independent economic review is gathering evidence to enable the team to produce a strategic, constructively critical review of the County Durham, Northumberland and Tyne and Wear economy.

It will look to the next 18 years of economic activity in the North East LEP area, and the team will recommend key strategic interventions that need to be put in place over the next five years .

Jonathan Ruffer will join fellow review team members Will Hutton, chairman of the Big Innovation Centre; Heidi Mottram, CEO of Northumbrian Water and member of the CBI’s national infrastructure panel; Lord Don Curry, leading businessman and chairman of NFU Mutual; and Bridget Rosewell, economist and chair of Volterra Partners.

Mr Ruffer said: “I’m honoured to have been asked to be part of North-East LEP’s key strategic review for what I believe is a wonderful part of the world.

“The review is exactly what is needed to set out a direction for long-term growth and regeneration in the North East. I promise to refuse if I am offered an archbishopric.”

Lord Andrew Adonis, who chairs the panel, added: “We are approaching our busiest time, with a series of seminars and a major conference taking place in the next few weeks all examining the evidence gathered to date.

“Jonathan Ruffer’s astute financial expertise and regional understanding will be of great value to the team as we move towards the final stages of the review later in spring.”

Paul Woolston, chair of the North East Local Enterprise Partnership said: “The Bishop of Durham has made a terrific contribution to the process. We knew he would be a hard act to follow, but Jonathan is a superb replacement.

“He has gained an enviable national and international reputation in the investment world for his expertise and his principled approach, and he has a deep commitment to the regeneration of the North-East.”