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Water regulator seeks to fill newly-created GC role as sector overhaul looms

Following proposals for the first major reform of the water and waste sectors since privatisation in the 90s, industry regulator Ofwat is now looking to fill a newly-created general counsel (GC) role as it seeks high level strategic advice and leadership on the opening of markets, reform of licences and the evolution of price controls.

The new GC – who will receive a salary of around £120,000 and will be based in Ofwat’s offices in London and Birmingham – will report directly to chief executive Cathryn Ross and will manage a team of 11 counsel. These include three legal directors, one of which is Huw Brooker, who joined Ofwat as deputy head of legal in 1999 and has led the legal team since 2006.

In Ofwat’s 19-page GC job specification, Ross, who joined this autumn from the Office of Rail Regulation, says: ‘The water and sewerage sectors face new problems and very different challenges. In the future, climate change may mean we get more droughts and floods, making it harder to maintain resilient supplies. Our population is growing, putting more pressure on the water we use.

‘Ofwat needs to be at the forefront of determining and implementing a regulatory system that will protect customers’ interests, drive efficiencies and innovation, enable efficient companies to finance their functions and to ensure that the “promises of privatisation” are delivered. To do this, Ofwat needs to be at the very top of its game. As CEO I need an effective and experienced team, who will provide the direction and leadership across the office.’

The new GC role is pitched as providing high quality strategic and risk-based advice to Ross, the Ofwat board and executive team on regulatory and competition matters and to increase the amount of work handled in-house. The body currently regulates each of the 18 licensed regional network monopolies and takes action on anti-competitive behaviour and pricing.

The move comes after in June 2013 the Water Bill was introduced to Parliament, proposing the first major reform to the water and waste-water sectors since privatisation in 1991. It is anticipated that new legislation will open up monopolised areas to competition, forcing Ofwat to change its rules and regulations and allowing water suppliers to operate across a number of different regions.

The closing date for applications is 29 November and a decision on the successful candidate, who inevitably ‘requires a high level of understanding of the political and legal dimensions of operating within a regulatory sector’ looks likely to be made by the end of the year.