Ministers revamp civil service roles at DTI

Ministers have moved to assert their authority at the Department of Trade and Industry with the first sweeping reorganisation of civil service posts, including a new appointment to beef up the response to the coal crisis.

Anna Walker, the deputy telecommunications regulator at Oftel, the watchdog, is being drafted into the DTI in a new capacity as deputy director general of energy. The role, which starts on 19 January, will leapfrog the three existing civil servants responsible for coal, electricity and energy policy.

The appointment is another indication of ministers' frustration with some DTI civil servants over the handling of the coal crisis. Senior officials are thought to have advised against some recent policy initiatives, including the review of the wholesale electricity trading market and the moratorium on applications to build gas-fired power stations.

A DTI spokesman said: "This is an appropriate move to reinforce senior management in that area."

Ms Walker's departure will be seen as a considerable loss at Oftel, coming just two months before Don Cruickshank, the regulator leaves his post. She joined Oftel from the DTI as director of competition in 1991 and became Mr Cruickshank's deputy in 1994. No replacement has been appointed.

Other changes announced at the DTI last week include confirmation of the departure of John Michell, head of gas, and a new head of the competitiveness unit. The DTI is also creating a merged division dealing with engineering, manufacturing and the car industry, to include the existing aerospace department.