Foster takes Thomsons role

28 Jun 01
Sir Andrew Foster will take over as head of the Best Value Inspectorate after Wendy Thomson was poached by 10 Downing Street to head up a new team advising Tony Blair on public service reform.

29 June 2001

Audit Commission controller Foster could start in his new role by as early as next month as ministers seek to get Thomson into Whitehall as soon as possible.

She has been seconded to take charge of the Office of Public Services Reform, part of three new units announced last week, and will report to the prime minister via Cabinet secretary Sir Richard Wilson.

The Audit Commission said it was 'thrilled' for Thomson and saw it as a great compliment that she had been seconded. 'This wasn't an opportunity we saw coming,' a spokeswoman for Foster told Public Finance. 'But Sir Andrew will use this opportunity to push through reforms to both audit and inspections. We look forward to working with Wendy to improve public services in the future.'

Downing Street said the Office for Public Services Reform, part of a wholesale Whitehall shake-up that also includes the creation of a public service delivery unit, will advise the prime minister on how best to push through its reforms of local and central government and the civil service.

The main areas of its work will include ensuring government targets in education, health and transport are achieved.

The team will be made up of civil servants and special advisers. Andrew Pinder, the

e-envoy, will also be closely involved.

Thomson is expected to be in charge for the next two years. Her new job confirms her as one of the public sector's high-flyers.

Now 48, Montreal-born Thomson has worked for the Greater London Council and the London Borough of Islington. Prior to leading the Best Value inspectorate she was chief executive at Newham council in east London, one of the authorities that has most enthusiastically embraced Labour's local government reforms.

She has been at the Best Value Inspectorate since September 1999.

A workaholic, she is held in high professional regard, but one source claimed her abrasive style made her a formidable, if often unpopular, force at the commission.

Concerns that the inspectorate has not proved as powerful as first envisaged may also have led to her move to Whitehall.

A Downing Street spokesman said no final decision had been made on the size of the new team's budget, Thomson's salary or how many people would eventually work alongside her.


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