The proposed chair of the new super-regulator has been welcomed as an 'inspirational' leader. Baroness Barbara Young, currently the Environment Agency chief executive, has been named as the Department of Health's preferred candidate to chair the shadow Care Quality Commission.

The CQC, which will absorb the Healthcare Commission, Commission for Social Care Inspection and Mental Health Act Commission, is being set up this October, and will become active next April.

Baroness Young, a cross-bench life peer in the House of Lords and former NHS manager, must be approved by the health select committee before being appointed.

Healthcare Commission chief executive Anna Walker, who knows Baroness Young from her time at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, described her as an "outspoken" and "upfront" character. "She has a real understanding of regulation and managing large organisations," she said.

"She knows about healthcare and has had to master very complex issues, so I have no doubt that she will immerse herself in understanding social care."

Baroness Young took up her post at the Environment Agency in December 2000. She faced heavy criticism during last year's flooding in southern England.

Her early career was spent in public relations and NHS management. Previous jobs have included a role as president of the Institute of Health Services Management and chief executive of the former Parkside Health Authority in London.

HSJ understands she had reservations about the introduction of the internal market into the NHS and the purchaser/provider split.

Ms Walker said: "She's a very strong believer in the NHS being free at the point of delivery and need. She will be conscious of where competition isn't possible in the NHS.

"I think she will be passionate about giving users the best possible choice".

Keith Ford, who was finance director at Parkside and retired from the NHS last year, called Baroness Young a "brilliant leader" who was "inspirational" and very hard-working.

NHS South West chief executive Sir Ian Carruthers said: "Barbara Young is an outstanding leader and person with a track record across the range of public services, including health."

The advertised salary for the post -£60,780 for three days a week, or more for an exceptional candidate - was criticised as being too low.

Healthcare Commission chair Sir Ian Kennedy got£160,000 in 2006-07, while Dame Denise Platt at CSCI earned£84,456. The CQC chief executive will be paid£190,000.

Lord Howe called the advertised salary "derisory". He said: "If they've offered a higher salary, they ought to re-advertise as they may have got a different cohort of candidate." But he praised Baroness Young as an "extremely capable person".

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