Hays Travel owner Dame Irene Hays becomes High Sheriff of Tyne and Wear

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Dame Irene Hays, the owner and chair of Hays Travel, has been appointed as the High Sheriff of Tyne and Wear for 2023/24.

In an installation ceremony at South Shields Town Hall on Monday, April 3, Dame Irene was declared the High Sheriff after receiving a Warrant direct from His Majesty’s Privy Council to take up the position.

The Lord Lieutenant Lucy Winskell OBE, His Honour Judge Paul Sloan KC, the region’s Mayors and other dignitaries all witnessed Dame Ireme make a formal declaration to promise to “promote the peace, wellbeing and prosperity of our county and all its people”.

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Having been born in Gosforth and brought up in Ashington, Dame Irene has worked across the region as she built her career working within the local authorities of Sunderland and South Tyneside, where she was chief executive of both.

Dame Irene Hays has been declared as the High Sheriff of Tyne and Wear for 2023/24. Dame Irene Hays has been declared as the High Sheriff of Tyne and Wear for 2023/24.
Dame Irene Hays has been declared as the High Sheriff of Tyne and Wear for 2023/24. | David Armour

Dame Irene then went on to work in Whitehall as the director general for local government, being responsibile for the then 353 councils across England.

She was then appointed as the permanent secretary to the Department of Local Government and Communities for the six months until her retirement.

Expressing her pride at her North East roots, Dame Irene said: “As a woman of the North East it is a great honour to represent Tyne and Wear as High Sheriff.

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“I am looking forward to a busy year meeting and supporting many of those who give their time, skills and commitment for the benefit of others.”

From left: His Hon. Judge Paul Sloan KC, Lord Lieutenant Lucy Winskell OBE, High Sheriff Dame Irene Hays DBE, The Hon. Mr Justice Martin Spencer.From left: His Hon. Judge Paul Sloan KC, Lord Lieutenant Lucy Winskell OBE, High Sheriff Dame Irene Hays DBE, The Hon. Mr Justice Martin Spencer.
From left: His Hon. Judge Paul Sloan KC, Lord Lieutenant Lucy Winskell OBE, High Sheriff Dame Irene Hays DBE, The Hon. Mr Justice Martin Spencer. | David Armour

Being the owner and chair of Hays Travel means that Dame Irene is very aware of the work that goes on within North East communities, having been an advocate of the company’s own community and charitable activities.

The organisation funds a community partnership in every one of its 400+ branches across the country, making an investment into local areas of more than £200,000 per year.

The Hays Travel Charitable Foundation has so far donated over £1.5m to support young people in education, sport, the arts, and their health.

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Across England and Wales, there are 55 High Sheriffs who commit their support to the crown, the judiciary and the emergency services, while promoting the voluntary sector in their county.

The title dates back to Saxon times and pre-dates both the judiciary and the police force.

The role is a non-political Royal appointment and those who accept it receive no remuneration or expenses from the public purse.

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