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UK names academic administrator to head statistics agency

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LONDON (Reuters) – The British government named an academic administrator to head the country’s statistics service on Tuesday, after a lengthy hunt failed to find a suitable successor before the most recent incumbent retired in June.

Ian Diamond, a 65-year-old former vice-chancellor of the University of Aberdeen, will replace John Pullinger, 60, as head of Britain’s Office for National Statistics.

Diamond’s new role – first advertised in November 2018 – is based at the Office for National Statistics’s headquarters in Newport, south Wales, and is responsible for the production of British economic and social data.

“With his considerable standing in the statistics community and talent for analysing large and complex data on population statistics, I am sure he will provide strong direction for the UK Statistics Authority and Office for National Statistics,” said John Manzoni, chief executive of the Civil Service.

Diamond, who will not fully start his new job until Oct. 22, also headed Britain’s Economic and Social Research Council, a grant-awarding body, and served on numerous public committees.

The reform of a widely used but outdated measure of price growth, the retail price index, will likely be among the top issues he will face when he takes office.

Since 2013, the UK Statistics Authority has said RPI fails to meet adequate quality standards and that the public should use another measure such as consumer price inflation.

However, RPI remains widely used, both as the benchmark for Britain’s inflation-linked government bonds as well as for setting annual increases in rail fares, student loan repayments and some taxes.

In April, the government postponed its recommendation on whether the ONS should reform, eventually scrap or continue to publish RPI unchanged to a future date.

Diamond received around 280,000 pounds from the University of Aberdeen when he stepped down in July 2018, a payment currently subject to a rare review by the Scottish Funding Council, a public body that monitors higher education funding.

The SFC said Diamond himself was not under investigation, as its remit covers universities and whether they spend their money wisely, rather than individuals.

(Reporting by Andy Bruce and David Milliken; Editing by Frances Kerry)

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