What is abundantly clear is that the sanctions applied to utility companies by the lacklustre and cosy Sir Humphrey quangocrat "regulator" Mafia are utterly ineffective at disciplining said outfits when they under perform or plain do wrong. There is a speculative billing epidemic and those wildly inaccurate variable rate direct debits have a strange way of targeting pensioners in my experience. Financial performance is important but in many cases it seems that profits are taken at the expense of customers and return business. I tend to think of the extremes like a victorious African revolution "nationalising" supermarkets and simply selling off the shelf and freezer contents....
The non performance sanctions should apply simultaneously up the management tree to board level and especially to director's emoluments/bonuses in addition to the net profits. Otherwise they simply thicken the salami slices of costs and add it to our bills and the PR department hoses a load of hogwash out to cover.
Underinvestment has characterised UK utilities and infrastructure provision for years - BAA was essentially bled dry before being flogged off to the Spaniards, the water companies, power generation and distribution, the railway network ... the list is seemingly never ending but characterised by incompetent and greedy management who generally don't have much experience of the actual business to hand or track record of actually performing.
Let's get this straight - the UK utilities free market isn't working - because it isn't and is unlikely ever to actually be a free market
many utilities have been natural monopolies - and they prefer it that way.
We actually now possess a variety of engineered tools to break some of the monopoly suppliers. The capacity of the political classes to grasp the possibilities is unfortunately very limited indeed and we could head down the slippery slope of degenerating utilities until we conform to the Nigerian model - which I have witnessed at first hand and honestly, once the slide has started I suspect it's difficult to stop.
An uncomfortable truth that I like tormenting Guardian readers with is well, sort of an inversion of the offshore windmill model.