Column Eight: Life after Neddy for the chief

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The Independent Online
Dr Walter Eltis is director general of 'Neddy', the much-loved National Economic Development Council, where captains of industry, ministers and trade unionists share beer, sandwiches and chats.

Or rather, he holds the post until Neddy closes in December, victim of the government axe. When its closure was announced, Neddy's 100 employees were a little surprised, if not miffed, by Dr Eltis's refusal to comment on the Government's reasoning.

'I hope that many of the excellent staff that I and my predecessors have recruited to work for the Nedo will be able to continue our work . . . in private industry, in the universities and in some cases elsewhere in government,' he said at the time. (Our italics.)

Lucky old Dr Eltis. He's just been appointed chief economic adviser to Michael Heseltine at the DTI. Colleagues at Neddy are said to be spitting.

National Home Loans may have recorded massive losses (pounds 86m at the halfway stage) in the mortgage lending business, and its shares may be trading at 2.25p, but NHL perseveres in plugging what obviously are considered its plus points.

This message accompanied yesterday's results: 'The company believe they have skills in managing mortgage portfolios that could be valuable to others in the market. They will seek to market these skills to third parties.' Dream on.

Companies pondering how to break bad news on the profits front have been adopting the brazen approach: 'Economic uncertainty. Too early to predict recovery. We remain optimistic . . .'

Another option, as practised by John Wardle, chairman of the Midlands metal basher Hampson Industries, is to stun investors with wistful lyricism, pace his statement to shareholders yesterday: 'When a company's results are imminent - in the rather grey days that have succeeded the very temporary post-election euphoria - the long-suffering investor tends to have two paramount worries or questions.'

Ian Walker, managing director, sighs: 'Every year he promises a brief chairman's statement but he never does and goes on, as usual, for page after page.'

Save & Prosper, the financial services arm of Robert Fleming, regained telephone contact with Planet Earth after going missing all Wednesday. Curiously, while staff could call out, incoming calls were just left ringing.

Were staff just sick of answering incessant calls from advertising salesmen? The firm blames BT.