U-turn as Ofwat fails to find boss willing to work in Birmingham

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The Independent Online

The water utilities regulator Ofwat will let its next chairman work from London, having previously failed to lure suitable candidates to succeed Philip Fletcher at its Birmingham base.

Mr Fletcher had to extend his departure date to July after a seven-month search for his replacement had to be canned last year. Headhunter GatenbySanderson found just one appropriate candidate, reportedly the then-Postcomm chair Millie Banerjee, when public appointment rules require at least two suitable applicants.

An industry source said that the problem was that the pay for a three-day week, £84,000, coupled with an insistence that the chairman work in Birmingham, was unattractive to the calibre of candidates the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs was seeking.

"It was typically stupid public-sector thinking," added the source. "You move loads of your staff to somewhere cheaper like Birmingham, then you can't get the best people or they're working in different locations, not interfacing with each other, which leads to problems down the line."

Defra relaunched the search, increasing the salary to £100,000 and locating the chairman closer to London.