Ofgem, the energy regulator, has made its general counsel redundant and restructured its 20-strong legal team as part of its ongoing mission to cut costs.
Earlier this month Ofgem announced it was to impose strict price controls on its spending, similar to those it requires from the private electricity and gas companies that it regulates.
It has told general counsel Nicola Northway that her post no longer exists and is scrapping its central legal team to move lawyers into five departments created by new chief executive Alistair Buchanan.
The five new divisions – corporate affairs, corporate strategy, markets, networks and operations – are a result of Ofgem’s cost-cutting review.
An Ofgem spokesperson said members of the legal team will be embedded into each department, with no other redundancies planned. The spokesperson said Ofgem does not foresee the restructuring of the legal function having any effect on its external legal panel, comprising Burges Salmon, Maclay Murray & Spens, Nabarro Nathanson, Olswang and Simmons & Simmons.
The legal panel is in place until 2005, when it will be opened up to competitive tender.
Northway, a well-liked lawyer within the energy industry, left Ofgem last Friday (20 February), and has not announced her next move. She became general counsel in October 2001, following an internal promotion after acting general counsel Charles Bankes, a partner at Simmons, returned to his job at the firm.
The Lawyer attempted to contact Northway, but the Ofgem spokesperson released a statement on her behalf. “Ofgem would like to take the opportunity to thank Nicola for her contribution. As general counsel she has consistently delivered professional legal advice and been a genial colleague,” the statement said.
Ofgem is aiming to cut its budget by £2m to £34m in 2004-05, representing a real term reduction of 8 per cent.
Ofgem is still highly staffed with lawyers compared with new media super-regulator Ofcom, which now has just five lawyers looking after 880 staff.