Openreach needs strong leadership at a critical time

When I saw the email from BT’s press office telling me that Joe Garner was leaving Openreach to become CEO of Nationwide, I nearly hit the roof, and I expect Gavin Patterson did as well.

Joe Garner is an enormously personable, open and friendly guy with whom I’ve got on well on the handful of occasions we’ve met, and to be fair he’s done a fantastic job at turning the Openreach ship – such as it is – around but I have to ask the question, why now?

Openreach is facing a rough few months. Depending on how the Ofcom review falls out, we may be heading into a time of legal uncertainty over the organisation’s future as part of the BT Group. I have not yet made up my mind if I would prefer to see it separated from BT or not, but the weight of opinion in favour of a split would seem to suggest that Ofcom will take the possibility very seriously indeed.

Furthermore, the national broadband network is a critical element in building the future digital economy of the UK. It needs ambition, commitment, and a relentless focus on bringing the very best possibly solution to the biggest number of people. Candidly, we deserve and should expect long-term strategic leadership on this.

My hope for Openreach would be for the appointment of a successor who is ready to lead the organisation through a potentially tumultuous few years.