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A mission to kill or cure

Richard Painter is a man with his fingers in so many pies he scarcely has a digit spare to scratch his nose.

The chief executive of ADT Education and its associated city technology college in south London, is already top man at Community Action Trust - better known as Crime Stoppers - and chief executive of Industry in Education.

Now here he is with another part to play, the central figure in the last-ditch attempt to rescue Hackney Downs.

Mr Painter, 51, and married with three children, was named last week as head of the North East London Education Association, the Government's first "hit squad". This is a team of six, primed to steam in and kill or cure the school.

This outpouring of public spirit has, understandably, left Mr Painter unable to speak to journalists. Accounts of him have so far thus been a little sparse. His qualifications for the job, it appears, are helping to run the ADT CTC, plus his time as personnel officer with Berkshire County Council.

Richard Painter is also a close colleague of Michael Ashcroft, the Tory chairman and chief executive of ADT. The company specialises in car auctions and electronic security, and is registered in Bermuda. The Tory party has benefited substantially from Mr Ashcroft's largesse and he was once tipped as a possible party treasurer.

ADT was one of the few firms willing to help out the Government by sponsoring a CTC while other better known industrial concerns believed the initiative would prove politically and educationally divisive.

Mr Painter is effectively the head of Mr Ashcroft's Public Works department - with the perhaps fortunate exception of the elephant charity Tusk Force, which was based at ADT College. Tusk Force hit the headlines when its founder, TV personality and model Paula Hamilton, attracted some unfortunate personal publicity. Tusk Force is no longer based at ADT College.

A former employee describes Richard Painter as a smooth but ruthless operator with a keen sense of where his political obligations lie. "He comes across as being very competent, very good at his job. But at the end of the day he sees the bottom line."

The other members of the education association are James Aston, education group manager of Kidsons Impey; Professor Michael Barber, soon to take up a new chair at London University Institute of Education; Bryan Bass, head of the private City of London Boys School; Richard Davies, formerly chief education officer of the London borough of Merton; and Joan Farrelly, formerly chief inspector of the London borough of Hammersmith and Fulham.

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