Ofwat chief Cathryn Ross on introducing more competition to the water market in 2017… and Christmas Eve carp

Written by Civil Service World on 31 December 2017 in Feature

With the end of 2017 fast approaching, we asked the UK's top civil servants to look back at the year, outline their goals for 2018 – and tell us what they cannot do Christmas without

What are you most proud of achieving in 2017?

Opening the market for business customers in England to competition. The Water Act 2014 set a date of April 2017 for market opening and delivering to that deadline so that customers would have the best possible experience was really tough. It was a real team effort involving Ofwat, Defra, the market operator MOSL, and of course all the companies involved.

Customers are already getting service that better suits their needs – lower price, improvements in water efficiency or the convenience of a single bill for their utility needs – either by switching or renegotiating with their existing supplier. It is always great when we do things that make a real difference for customers!

What was your most difficult decision in 2017?

I recruited several new members to Ofwat’s senior leadership team in 2017, and the decisions were really tough because we had such a strong field of candidates.

But that’s definitely the problem you want to have! And I’m delighted with the depth, energy and diversity of thought our new people bring to the team. 

What are your department’s top priorities in the year ahead?

Every five years Ofwat determines the prices the 17 monopoly water companies can charge and the service get for their money. Our next price review starts in September 2018 when we will receive and start assessing companies’ business plans.

It’s tough, but a great thing to work on because the decisions we make affect literally everyone across England and Wales and they relate to genuinely vital public services. And people right across the office really pull together as a team with a great sense of common purpose in delivering for customers!  

For you, no Christmas holiday is complete without...

Carp! My husband is Polish and carp is the centrepiece of our traditional Polish Christmas Eve supper. Honestly, I’m not that keen on it but Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without it. And at least – unlike some of our Polish family – he doesn’t keep a live fish in the bathtub through December for the big day…

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