Whether a single “super-regulator” emerges or not, utility regulation must be “tough”, Consumer Council for Water chief executive Tony Smith has insisted.

During an interview with Utility Week, Smith warned that having one big regulator that was weak would be disastrous for the customers of all of the sectors it oversaw.

Earlier this month, chancellor Philip Hammond announced a review of utility regulation, which could see the creation of a single watchdog covering telecoms, gas, water and energy.

The chancellor commissioned the National Infrastructure Commission to carry out an independent study of the telecoms, energy and water regulators.

Smith said regulation plays a “very important role” in the water sector and will for the foreseeable future. “Particularly the risk of regulatory action is really important to the credibility of the industry for customers,” he said. “Customers expect Ofwat to be tough, and they take some reassurance in that I think.

“Whether a review of regulation means that you end up with a different regulatory landscape, who knows. But whichever landscape you end up with, what you want is that regulator to be focusing on minimum standards, and tough, quick regulatory action which is justified.”

Smith also said he believes having more than one regulator is good because they tend to compete with each other.

However, he added: “For us, it’s more about what the regulator does than is there a single one or lots of sector-specific ones.”

The full interview with Tony Smith will be published in 26 October issue of Utility Week, and online.

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