The Chief Executive of the Consumer Council for Water (CCWater) is set to retire from the watchdog after more than 14 years at the helm.
Tony Smith has announced that he will leave the consumer group next June having led the organisation since its inception in October 2005.
It will draw to a close a career spanning almost three decades in the utilities and infrastructure sectors for Smith, who has guided CCWater through three price reviews during his tenure.
Smith said: “It has been a huge privilege working with water companies, regulators and governments to transform the way consumers now influence the industry.”
“I’m particularly proud that we were able to put customers at the heart of the price review process, turn around the industry’s poor record on complaints and bolster support for some of the most vulnerable households. There’s still a huge amount more to be done but the industry is in far better shape than when we first arrived on the scene.”
CCWater’s Chair Rob Light, said: “Tony has made an immense contribution to the significant improvements we’ve seen in the water industry over the past 14 years. The voice of the customer now carries much more weight with companies, regulators and Government and he must take enormous credit for that.”
When Smith took the reins back in 2005, his team were confronted by an industry that was struggling to contain rising complaint numbers – fuelled by poor customer service and inflation-busting bill increases.
CCWater set to work challenging the way companies handled complaints so more problems were resolved first time and the root causes of customers’ frustrations were addressed. The approach has led to a 70 per cent reduction in complaints since reaching a peak in 2007/08.
Smith also successfully argued for a huge increase in the influence of customers on the industry and its regulation, which has grown to unprecedented levels.
Under his leadership, CCWater has established itself as a strong advocate for vulnerable customers – spearheading efforts to transform the way water companies support households facing financial hardship or other difficulties.
Smith will guide CCWater through the final phase of the 2019 Price Review and the first half of 2020 until his successor is appointed.