Who is Britain’s most useless watchdog? In yesterday’s Letter I asked whether there is a more supine national regulator than the power industry’s Ofgem.
Unfortunately, yes, writes Alf: “The Financial Services Authority, back in 2007-09. They plumbed new depths in uselessness. But I have to agree Ofgem are putting up a worthy challenge.” Dave Payn from Arran, meanwhile, replies: “Ofcom, who seem powerless to force BT into providing decent broadband to rural areas.”
Your other suggestions include the Independent Police Complaints Commission (multiple entries), the Care Quality Commission (under new management, as the saying goes), the Solicitors Regulation Authority (“unfit for purpose”, a former Ministry of Justice civil servant declared back in 2009), the Charities Commission (floundered over the Cup Trust, notably), and, nominated by Rotherhithe’s Gary Williams, the Press Complaints Commission (see i passim – RIP PCC, tbc).
On Ofgem, “all Cameron needs to do,” insists Steve Watt, “is revamp this sorry shower, and give them the same powers as Ofwat.” Ofwat heavily regulates water companies, which can only increase residential bills every five years in line with rules set by the watchdog. Just last week it blocked a Thames Water request to raise prices by 8 per cent. In Britain, water is a less volatile commodity than, say, gas, so the comparison is not exact, but Ofwat shows what can be done when a regulator has a little muscle.
Keep them coming. We need a name for the prize and a trophy – perhaps a commemorative chocolate fireguard.