Rebels fail to oust 'part-time' utility boss

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The Independent Online
A third of shareholders at the annual meeting of Yorkshire Water yesterday voted against the election of Brandon Gough as part-time chairman.

The attempted rebellion, however, failed to overturn his appointment but came after a long debate about his ability to run the much criticised company on a part-time basis - mainly from his base in Kent.

The row at the company came as six other electricity and water utilities, including United Utilities - which is defending a new pay package for its top people - hold their annual meetings today.

Mr Gough, 58, who became pounds 120,000-a-year chairman of Yorkshire Water in April, admitted he would only be able to devote two days a week to the job - and just one of those would be in Yorkshire. The rest of his time will be spent in his role as director of three public companies and chairman of two government bodies.

Pete Bowler, of pressure group Yorkshire Waterwatch, said: "How do you propose to lead a Yorkshire-based regional company from London? We don't have problems in London, we have them here."

Anne Simpson, of the corporate governance consultancy Pirc, added: "We're extremely concerned that the chairman is planning to spend only one day in Leeds. He said in his own speech that you need to stay close to your customers. If six days of the week the chairman isn't in the area, it's very difficult to achieve that."

But Mr Gough said because he was a non-executive chairman, with Dr Kevin Bond running the day-to-day business as chairman and managing director of Yorkshire Water Services, he was devoting enough time to the job.

He added: "My home is where my home is, my home is where my wife is. The board accepted that, knowing very clearly what my personal circumstances are."

Earlier, shareholders had criticised the company's previous management for being "incompetent and inefficient" in their handling of last summer's drought.

Mr Gough said the company had learnt from its experience and from criticisms made since by Ofwat and by an inquiry into the handling of the drought.