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BT's infrastructure subsidiary Openreach has appointed a fourth independent director to its newly-established board.

Liz Benison of Serco will join as a non-executive member alongside Chairman Mike McTighe, Sir Brendan Barber and Edward Astle.

Openreach has set up the board as part of an effort to boost its transparency and autonomy, amid an ongoing dispute over its future.

Indeed, Ofcom recently ordered BT to legally separate from Openreach, so it is run as a distinct and legally separate company with its own board.

The watchdog believes this is necessary as BT has not done enough to ease its concerns over competition, particularly its belief that BT has the "incentive and ability to favour its own retail business when making strategic decisions about new network investments by Openreach".

According to Openreach, this latest board appointment means the number of independent directors is higher than the number of executive board members.

Mr McTighe commented: "We are determined to meet our customers’ expectations and to strengthen the autonomy, governance and transparency of Openreach, so we are putting a strong team in place to deliver that.

“Liz brings a wealth of experience in building businesses through forging strong relationships with clients and delivering long and complex contracts in the service industry."

Mr McTighe also pointed out that Ms Benison is "passionate" about British innovation and good service, which means Openreach is an ideal fit for her knowledge and expertise.

Clive Selley, Chief Executive of Openreach, added that the recent changes in senior leadership are intended to strengthen its relationships with external stakeholders.

"Openreach is crucial to the UK’s thriving digital economy," he said.

"I am confident that becoming even more transparent and collaborative will help Openreach deliver better service, broader coverage and faster speeds for consumers and businesses across the country."

However, the recent changes at Openreach have not appeased many critics of the organisation, such as Chief Executive of TalkTalk Dido Harding.

Speaking to City A.M., she commented: "We of course welcome even small steps that would give Openreach greater independence, but the appointment of these new directors is meaningless until we have clarity on whether the board has any real authority.

"The sooner BT agrees to Ofcom’s demands for legal separation, the sooner it can start delivering the improved service customers deserve."

Ofcom has also cast doubt on whether the appointment of independent board members is enough to ease its concerns over the governance of Openreach, the Evening Standard reports.

The watchdog said the recent changes "fall short of our requirements for a legally separate Openreach that delivers for all of its customers".

As a result, it intends to push its case for a reformed Openreach to the European Commission in the coming months.

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