ODPM says role of Thames Gateway champion will be advertised in February as consultant slams rudderless plans.

The office of the deputy prime minister says that plans to appoint a Thames Gateway Champion to head the massive regeneration scheme in east London are well under way, and that the position will be advertised in February.

The announcement comes in response to a critical report by management consultant Hornagold & Hills, which called on the ODPM to appoint a leader for the Thames Gateway project "as a matter of urgency".

John Prescott in particular came in for criticism, with 87% of stakeholders rating his team's leadership as "not effective".

Report author Stan Hornagold said organisations involved in the project were unclear about their role. He said "There is… a chasm of leadership and everybody feels that now is the time to fill it, to try and build up momentum."

The report also said the government had not yet committed enough funds to the scheme. It said: "There does not appear to be enough in the Treasury and the office of the deputy prime minister's allocation to meet the ambitions and potential of the project."

Housing minister Yvette Cooper defended the deputy prime minister, saying: "as the report makes clear, John Prescott is the one person singled out for effective leadership within the Thames Gateway - without whom it would not have got going."

Cooper also said that London would not have won the right to host the 2012 Olympics "without a powerful plan for regeneration across the area already in place."

The consultants and the ODPM agree on one thing - the Thames Gateway is too diverse to have a single organisation trying to deliver all the projects and plans. Hornagold & Hill recommend that the new champion of Thames Gateway, whoever he or she might be, be appointed for a minimum of five years, and be given powers to co-ordinate all activities and to influence funding.

  • ODPM director for the Thames Gateway Jeff Channing said at this morning's report launch that the two Urban Development Corporations set up to drive growth in the Thames Gateway could have their seven-to-ten year lifespan lengthened. Responding to concerns from Thurrock UDC board member Sunny Crouch that this would not be a long enough period to kickstart regeneration, channing said that there will be a review into whether they should go on beyond their current end dates.