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01 February 2017
| Alan Burkitt-Gray
The UK’s last-mile wholesale operator Openreach has had its first board meeting since its owner, BT, agreed to set one up in a concession to the regulator, Ofcom.
BT announced the chairman, Mike McTighe, in November 2016.
Now the company has appointed two further independent directors
and confirmed that Openreach’s senior management
and BT’s CFO will also be board members.
"I understand that customers sometimes feel let down by
Openreach because we haven’t always delivered the
service they expect or that we hope to provide," said
Ofcom is still reviewing Openreach’s long-term
relationship with BT and its CEO, Sharon White, may still tell
the group that Openreach has to be hived off as an independent
company. It is still a 100% subsidiary of BT –
something emphasised by the reporting lines in
today’s announcement from the company after
yesterday’s inaugural meeting.
However, the announcement has already come under fire from
the very regulator that it was meant to appease.
In a statement, Ofcom said it will continue with plans to
approach the European Commission about how to deal with BT and
A spokesperson for Ofcom said: "These changes fall short of
our requirements for a legally separate Openreach that delivers
for all of its customers. We intend to take our plans to the
European Commission later this year."
Clive Selley, CEO of Openreach, is a member of the board,
reporting to McTighe as chairman but also to BT’s
CEO, Gavin Patterson, "on issues relating to BT’s
responsibilities as a publicly listed company".
Clare Sadlier, CFO of Openreach, is also on the board
– the only woman along with the five men so far
announced. But so is her opposite number as CFO on the BT group
board, Simon Lowth, who thus has a view of BT’s
investment plans for retail and global services as well as
Openreach’s investment strategy.
Two new independent directors have been announced, and there is
one vacancy. One of them, Edward Astle, has experience of the
telecoms industry – he was executive director of
global business at Cable & Wireless for eight years until
1997. He was later chairman of National Grid Wireless until it
was acquired by transmitter operator Arqiva in 2007.
The other independent non-executive director is Brendan Barber,
former general secretary of the UK’s labour union
confederation, the Trade Union Congress.
Now that Openreach has its own board, the focus will be "to
re-build trust and credibility", said McTighe. "This will be
the Board’s focus and we are currently in
consultation with BT group about agreeing the plan to deliver
better service, broader coverage and faster speeds for
consumers and businesses across the country."
Openreach’s board will set up an audit, risk and
compliance committee that "will hold the business to account
and regularly hear representations from customers, as well as
conducting an annual review of Openreach compliance and publish
its findings", said an Openreach statement. It will run in
parallel to BT’s existing Equality of Access
Board, of which Astle is also a member.
Cable & Wireless,