THE chief constable of Northumbria Police heads the list of local recipients in the Queen's New Years Honours List.

Winton Keenan, who has spent the past 37-years in dedicated service to the North-East-based force, has been handed a Queen's Police Medal for distinguished service.

The police chief is credited with leading the force to achieve the 'very highest levels of public confidence and citizen safety.'

He is also praised with helping Northumbria to become the 'most representative, inclusive and most wellbeing-focused' it has ever been through important work with communities, partners and stakeholders.

The well-known officer has, throughout his long career, also forged good working relationships with minority, ethnic and hard-to-reach groups as well as the local business community - something which became even more important at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. He has also heavily supported the region's Chinese community, who have felt particularly vulnerable during the ongoing coronavirus crisis.

The chief executive officer of the North East England Chamber of Commerce described Keenan as 'crucial' to the region's response to Covid, saying: "He has established himself as a hugely influential voice in all corners of society in the region and his personality has made an impact on so many people's lives."

The long-service team member, who was made chief constable in 2018 after the retirement of former chief constable Steve Ashman, has worked in a variety of roles which have seen him tackle specialist investigations and serious, organised crime.

In 2003-4, he was deployed to Iraq as the first contingent commander of UK Civilian Police Officers at the end of the Gulf War.

Keenan joined Northumbria as a police officer in 1985, became assistant chief constable in 2014 and deputy in 2015.

Among the other local recipients were Ponteland women Lucinda Porter for services to Girlguiding and Bridget Stratford MBE for services to refugees and asylum seekers, particularly during Covid-19.

Twenty-five-year-old project coordinator Bridget is the driving force behind North East Solidarity and Teaching (N.E.S.T) - a student-run, volunteer group from Newcastle University, which she set up in 2016.

N.E.S.T empowers the refugee and asylum-seeking community in the region through one-to-one, regular English teaching, group classes, sports and other recreational activities. There are also opportunities for families to socialise online - no matter where they are in the world.

The service adapted during the pandemic and now offers a hybrid programme, built around online teaching and face-to-face learning.

"I was really surprised!", said Bridget on learning of her MBE. "It's really nice for the project, especially, to get some recognition. Any kind of awareness raising is brilliant to help us continue to do our work.

"There's lots of people in the North-East who are refugees and asylum seekers who need support but it's also brilliant to work with the [North-East] community to help build the project. We learn more than we teach working with this community and it's such a privilege."

Bridget, who identified a need for a hands-on, suitable for students' organisation like N.E.S.T, added: "There's so much that we can all do, whatever your position is. Things like fundraising, awareness raising are important, but also volunteering can make a massive difference helping families to integrate into the community."

Having given over 50 years active, voluntary service to Girlguiding, 67-year-old Lucinda receives a British Empire Medal (BEM).

Since 1966, she has occupied a number of roles including guide ranger, young leader, assistant guider and more recently, senior leader of 4th Ponteland Guides. Thirty years ago, she became district commissioner for Ponteland, Northumberland, and currently holds the position of division badge secretary.

Lucinda, who has raised over £20,000 over the years for Guides, was once also awarded the North East England Chief Commissioner's Award for outstanding service in the face of adversity for displaying exceptional courage or initiative.