Bunhill: Another row on his hands

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The Independent Online
IAN BYATT, the water industry regulator, has another row on his hands. This time it is with the Gas Consumers Council, the watchdog that safeguards the interests of British Gas's 18 million domestic customers.

In a recent speaking note to the All Party Parliamentary Water Group, the embattled Mr Byatt quoted a broker's note suggesting that the Customer Service Committees - the 10 offices representing the interests of water users - had been 'far more effective in their role than the ineffectual Gas Consumers Council'.

Outsiders might feel that the real difference is that Mr Byatt exercises an iron grip on his CSCs while his equivalent in the gas industry has won widespread praise for its totally independent efforts on behalf of customers.

When the GCC rang Ofwat for an explanation it was told that the comment came from a note produced by Pandelaki Athanasiou, utilities analyst at UBS, the securities house. Unplacated, James Cooper, GCC chairman, wrote a letter to Byatt (a copy of which naturally found its way to the All Party Water Group) requesting an explanation for this 'astonishing comment'.

Meanwhile, Athanasiou is feeling a little embarrassed. 'Byatt really dropped me in the shit,' he said - a remark that might well interest the All Party Water Group.