Bunhill: Troubled waters

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THERE seems to be a touch of vindictiveness in Ian Byatt, director-general of Ofwat.

In February, he failed to renew the contract of Helen Scott, the chairwoman of Ofwat's customer services committee in Yorkshire. Earlier this month, he went much further by launching a personal attack on Mrs Scott in the form of a 'speaking note', when he was giving evidence to the House of Commons All-Party Water Group on the unrelated subject of water charges.

The note included phrases such as 'Her enthusiasm is not in question; her judgment is . . . she has a nose for problems and a flair for publicity. But she is better at raising problems than solving them.' Unfortunately for Mrs Scott, the note carries Parliamentary privilege and so she can't sue.

But she can rely on her record. The wife of a circuit judge, she's been involved in consumer affairs for a quarter of a century, including a spell running a Citizens Advice Bureau. As one MP in the group put it: 'I simply didn't recognise her from Byatt's description.'

Since she left Ofwat she has received around 500 letters thanking her for her work, and has joined a new body, Yorkshire Water Watch, which is doing all the things that customer services committees were supposed to do.