United Utilities pair quit to start regional agency

Two senior members of United Utilities' three-strong public affairs team have left to start their own lobbying firm, operating in Liverpool and Manchester.

Latta and Wright: focus on North West
Latta and Wright: focus on North West

Public affairs managers Ian Latta and Paula Wright have set up M3 Public Affairs to target organisations based in the North West.

‘Companies in the regions have routinely turned to agencies in the capital for public affairs, but we’ve found there is increasing desire to use local knowledge and skills,’ said Latta.

‘Ultimately, our aim is to position ourselves as the Mr North West of public affairs and help create the idea that just as North West organisations appoint a London public affairs agency, they also appoint one to look after their regional heartland.’

Latta claimed the need for such an agency was greater than ever because of ‘the big chunk of North West MPs in the cabinet or promoted to senior roles after the Brown reshuffle’.

He was unable to reveal the names of any clients at this stage, but said two public sector bodies – ‘one in the health service and the other a local authority service provider’ – were on the verge of signing with the agency.

Latta and Wright both started as journalists on regional papers. At United Utilities, they reported to head of government affairs Will Parkes, who joined the water and electricity group earlier this year from Transport for London (PRWeek, 23 March).

The pair’s exit leaves United Utilities with just one full-time public affairs person – Parkes – at a critical juncture. The company, which operates mainly in the North West and has around three million customers, is gearing up for the next national review of water bills, which will get underway later this year.

Intensive lobbying will occur as all water companies seek to protect their income.

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