In profile: Departing audit commission chief Sir Andrew Foster

In short, the man is ready for a new challenge, and a new job to stretch his talents.

And talent he has. The former social worker knows how to lead a large organisation, generate respect and provoke more than a little fear among the people his organisation examines. Put simply, under Sir Andrew’s leadership, the commission has made a difference.

The Audit Commission wrote the prophetic report on the fire service ‘in the line of fire’, and each year publishes league tables which inform the public on how well their local councils are performing. The commission last year published the biggest-ever assessment of local authorities in which Sir Andrew was as willing to praise as he was to condemn.

Last December – when the assessment of the 150 biggest local authorities ended with them earning new freedoms from central government – Sir Andrew validated the decision by saying they were delivering services as well, if not better, than central government or the private sector.

Sir Andrew was also willing to let the world know about the councils he believed were failing and ‘which did not have the capacity to improve’.

This all adds up to the fact that Sir Andrew is not a man to shy away from controversy. Put it any way you want, but Sir Andrew is quite content to be in the thick of it and is more than happy to defend his corner.

On the face of it you, have to concede that he’s a safe pair of hands for a potentially controversial job. So where’s a man like that to go?

How about the Financial Reporting Council?

The body is about to evolve into an accountancy super watchdog after trade secretary Patricia Hewitt’s announcements two weeks ago. It may well be that she could be looking for a new suit to head the regulator in its new form. Previously only Peter Wyman sprang to mind. But how about Sir Andrew?

The Audit Commission is about as regulatory as it gets and he’s no wallflower when it comes to delivering a message that some will find unpalatable. We wouldn’t suggest that you place any bets, but don’t be too surprised if it happens.

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