Hunt goes on for top audit post

This week the Department for Local Government, Transport and the Regions, which is overseeing the appointment, would only say that the search was continuing. ‘Ministers are carefully considering the options. No decision has been taken,’ said a spokesman.

It is thought that there were a large number of applicants for the post – one of the most high-profile audit appointments in the public sector.

The government originally put forward Lord Norman Warner to replace former chairman Dame Helena Shovelton. But the Labour peer, a former senior adviser to Jack Straw, faced accusations of being a ‘Tony Crony’ and was thought to be too close to the government to become the head of the independent body that scrutinises the work of councils and the NHS.

A former civil servant and director of Kent county council’s social services, there also appears to be a question mark over whether Warner carried the full support of transport and local government secretary Stephen Byers.

Byers, health secretary Alan Milburn and Welsh first minister Rhodri Morgan will appoint the new chair.

Neither the Audit Commission nor the Local Government Association, the organisation that represents all English and Welsh councils, said they had any idea who would be put forward.

The post of chair has been vacant since the sacking of Dame Helena Shovelton last year. She left the job in November though no reason was ever publicly given for her dismissal.

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