UKFI rudderless as Kingman jumps ship

John Kingman, the ex-Treasury mandarin considered to be the UK's most important civil servant, has quit.

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

There’s been a major shake-up at UK Financial Investments, the Government body responsible for managing the taxpayer’s stakes in Britain’s nationalised banks. Chief executive John Kingman has stepped down - the man often described as the most powerful civil servant in Whitehall is apparently planning to high-tail it back to the private sector as soon as a replacement can be found. And chairman Glen Moreno is also on his way: he’ll be replaced by venture capitalist Sir David Cooksey, with immediate effect. The news has taken the City by surprise – and it can’t have gone down well with the Government...

Kingman, who’s been a fairly low-profile figure since being parachuted in from the Treasury to run UKFI last year (apart from a fairly unimpressive display before the Treasury Select Committee), didn’t really explain his decision to leave the body less than a year later. But the BBC’s Robert Peston, who seems to have a better idea of what goes on in the Treasury then most ministers, reckons he’s been keen to return to the private sector for some time now. Allegedly the appointment of Cooksey was a clear sign that UKFI was on a stable footing, allowing him to move on with a clear conscience.

Cooksey’s appointment also comes as a bit of a surprise. Moreno wasn’t expected to stay forever – given the storm of criticism he’s attracted, largely because of his association with an offshore company called LGT, a financial business accused of facilitating tax avoidance, his appointment was always going to be temporary – but it had been thought that a high-profile banker would get the job. However Cooksey has plenty of relevant experience – in addition to founding venture capital firm Advent, he’s previously been a director of the Bank of England and chairman of the Audit Commission. So he knows the corridors of Whitehall as well as the City.

But although he looks a good choice to replace Moreno, the Government now has the major headache of filling Kingman’s important role (which just got a bit bigger, now UKFI has taken over responsibility for Bradford & Bingley). And since there aren’t too many mandarins about with his background, they might well have to recruit from the private sector – which means paying a salary to match.

As for Kingman, he’s unlikely to struggle for job offers given his experience of the last year. We can well imagine that running UKFI must have seemed like a fairly thankless task when he could go and earn three times as much in the private sector, without any pesky MPs and journalists sniping at him...

In today's bulletin:

UKFI rudderless as Kingman jumps ship
BP profits halve on lower oil prices
Editor's blog: BSM picks Fiat and gives Vauxhall the boot
Broadband adverts exaggerate shocker
'Our bank is putting our entire business at risk'

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