'I wasn't expecting it': Modest Portsmouth council worker reacts to winning the lifetime achievement award at The News’ Business Excellence Awards

‘I wasn’t expecting it – when you work for a council I don’t think you ever think you’re going to get an award for this kind of thing.’

By Elsa Waterfield
Sunday, 1st May 2022, 7:15 pm
Mark Pembleton after being given the Lifetime Achievement Award at The News Business Excellence Awards Picture: Alex Shute
Mark Pembleton after being given the Lifetime Achievement Award at The News Business Excellence Awards Picture: Alex Shute

Those were the words of modest Mark Pembleton, as he was given the Lifetime Achievement award at The News’ Business Excellence Awards on Friday.

The 20th year of the awards - back at full strength after a truncated version last summer and a pandemic-related cancellation in 2020 - again shone a spotlight on the people and businesses who make our city tick.

And in among the up-and-coming entrepreneurs, Mr Pembleton, the economic growth manager at Portsmouth City Council, was a worthy winner, in recognition of a long and distinguished career in local government in which he has worked hard to lay the groundwork for firms’ success and prosperity.

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A trained accountant, he has more than 20 years’ experience in economic development, and has steered a course for Portsmouth - whether that be winning £6.9m in Future HIgh Streets Funding or £20m in Levelling Up fund cash for the city, or leading overseas marketing of the city with trade visits to Bangladesh and China.

He has also helped to give out more than £40m of Covid grants in the last few years, often manning the phones himself, and has been a driving force behind Shaping Portsmouth as one of its directors. Mr Pembleton was the successful lead on bidding for Freeport status for the city and the Solent Freeport, which is hoped will bring many advantages for Portsmouth.

Mr Pembleton said: ‘It’s fantastic. I mean I love it but I feel like there’s so many other people who deserve it just as much. When you work for local government, you’ve got a very big team. It’s not just me, it's about everybody else too.’

Paying tribute to his work, at the awards last night Editor of The News Mark Waldron said: ‘He did much to help small businesses during the pandemic, including personally manning the phones when businesses called for help and support.

‘Ahead of his imminent retirement, we believe this award is a fitting tribute to all he has achieved and how much he has given to the city.’