Severn Trent is to cut its head office staff in Birmingham – possibly by up to a third – as it unloads unwanted businesses to focus on its core water and sewerage operations.

The country's second biggest water company wants to cut central costs by up to #10 million a year by merging its head office functions in Coventry Road, Sheldon, with its main water division. Group chief executive Colin Matthews said costs will be cut by a third – and head office staff will bear the brunt. On that basis, numbers would be cut by 30, but he would not confirm that.

Severn Trent, with one of the highest water leakage rates in Britain, has offloaded its Biffa waste disposal business and is selling its UK property and US laboratories operations.