BT Openreach's final board line-up is structurally flawed, says TalkTalk's Dido Harding

 
Oliver Gill
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TalkTalk chief exec Dido Harding has criticised BT's plans for Openreach in the past (Source: Getty)

Openreach today revealed its final board line-up in a push to prove its independence from parent BT, only for the move to be branded "meaningless" by TalkTalk.

LIz Benison, a high ranking executive at Serco, will take her place as a non-exec alongside chairman Mike McTighe, Edward Astle and Sir Brendan Barber. Openreach said the appointment means independent directors outnumber executive board members four to three.

“We are determined to meet our customers’ expectations and to strengthen the autonomy, governance and transparency of Openreach, so we are putting a strong team in place to deliver that," said McTighe, who previously served on the board of regulator Ofcom.

Read more: BT Openreach changes aren't enough for Ofcom

However, the outgoing chief executive of TalkTalk, Dido Harding, who has in the past criticised BT for not ensuring Openreach has a greater degree of autonomy, hit out at BT's plans. She said:

We of course welcome even small steps that would give Openreach greater independence, but the appointment of these new directors is meaningless until we have clarity on whether the board has any real authority.

Legal separation

Ofcom wants Openreach, which owns most of the UK telecoms infrastructure, to be legally separated from the BT group with no reporting lines back into the wider BT group.

The regulator rebuffed the appointments of Astle and Barber to the Openreach board earlier this month and is currently preparing an admission to European authorities to force through its proposed changes.

"The sooner BT agrees to Ofcom’s demands for legal separation, the sooner it can start delivering the improved service customers deserve," said Harding.

Ofcom had not responded to requests for further comment at the time of writing.

Meanwhile, Openreach also announced a raft of other new executive appointments, including Richard Allwood as chief strategy officer.

“These senior leadership changes are all about strengthening our relationship with the outside world and building even more productive partnerships with everyone that has a stake in our business," said Openreach chief exec Clive Selley.

Plusnet

The news comes as Ofcom found "reasonable grounds" that another of BT's subsidiaries, broadband provider Plusnet, had charged customers "for amounts that did not represent and exceeded the true extent of the service actually provided to them" and had continued to do so after services had been cancelled.

Read more: Meet the UK's newest mobile provider

The news does not mean Ofcom has ruled against Plusnet at this time, and the broadband firm now has the option to make representations on the matter to an ongoing Ofcom investigation into the matter.

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