Utility Week

Utility Week 12 12 2014

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Page 10 of 33

UtILItY WeeK | 12th - 18th December 2014 | 9 Interview D own some corridors and through some doors from Ofwat's Bloomsbury Street offices, Alan Suther- land sits alone in Open Water's echoing HQ, put- ting the finishing touches to the final framework for the competitive water market. If this were a movie, it couldn't have been shot bet- ter: Sutherland, the Scottish water regulator by day, has taken on much of the work of opening the English market; and today he reveals to Utility Week that his role is about to become official, with the organisation he runs, the Water Industry Commission for Scotland (Wics), set to be Ofwat's delivery partner for Open Water in name as well as fact. Sutherland was always going to play a significant role in the market opening, given his experience of the Scottish opening, the ambition for an Anglo-Scottish market and his subsequent position on the Open Water board. But his role has expanded as the programme has been buffeted by a series of unexpected and unfortunate events that started with the departure of chief executive Keith Fowler at the beginning of the year, and ended with the abandonment of the company set up to manage the project, Open Water Markets Limited (OWML), aer some Treasury-imposed red tape at the end of the summer. Today, the redoubtable Sutherland seems pleased to have the official stamp put on his position, though he stretches credulity somewhat by saying there is nothing unusual in having the Scottish regulator step in to open the English market. He is keen to put to rest concerns raised by the Drink- ing Water Inspectorate, the environmental regulator, that competition could put drinking water quality at risk, and to emphasise the heavy liing that companies must now do aer the publication of the final framework on Thurs- day, a tome formally known as the Market Architecture Plan 2 (MAP2). First, governance: "Looking back, it is now fairly clear that with OWML having been established, it was not established in a way that, with the benefit of hindsight, was going to make its role easy or even very doable." The reasons for this are well documented: the Treasury refus- ing to classify OWML as a private body, so it would have been subject to the Byzantine procurement and staffing rules of the public sector, which would have held the project back. Sutherland concedes "the whole classifica- tion thing has been frustrating", and while he usually prickles at any criticism of the Open Water programme, this one he "will take on the chin". As Sutherland quite reasonably points out, the brou- haha over OWML has not significantly held back the pro- gramme, with a huge amount of work going on behind the scenes, with the industry, leading to this week's pub- lication of MAP2. Much of this has been done by Suther- land, and that arrangement is soon to become formal with a "protocol" agreement that will appoint Wics the delivery partner for Open Water. The protocol is "pro- gressing" but not yet signed, and is subject to approval by the Wics board. As a result, the original plan announced by Ofwat when OWML's unsuitability became clear – to wind down the organisation until a later date and recruit a programme director reporting to chief regulation officer Sonia Brown – goes in the bin and Sutherland takes (or keeps hold of) the reins.

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