A Fair Deal for Consumers?
Edited by Cecilia Ugaz
Chapter 5: UK utility reforms: distributional implications and government response
Catherine Waddams Price and Alison Young 1. INTRODUCTION Privatization and deregulation are now under way in many countries, including those in Latin America, which have often been in the forefront of developments, as other studies in this project report. In many places a new phase of reform has been reached, when the initial eﬀects are assessed, often by governments that did not themselves instigate the reorganization, and the general legitimization of the arrangements is reviewed. The UK, also a pioneer in this ﬁeld under the Conservative governments of 1979 to 1997 has now reached this second phase. By the end of their period in power virtually all the formerly nationalized industries were privately owned – telecoms, water, electricity, gas, railways, as well as coal, iron and steel among others. This study concentrates on the eﬀect of reform on the ﬁrst four of these industries, their impact on diﬀerent household groups and the response of the incoming Labour government since 1997, particularly the Utilities Act passed in 2000. While the UK is very diﬀerent from most Latin American countries in terms of income levels and income distribution, and in terms of provision of social security services and the penetration levels of utilities, its use as an exemplar by many enthusiasts for reform makes its pioneering privatization policy, its eﬀects and subsequent political reaction an interesting case study. Section two describes the diﬃculties faced by some British citizens in gaining access to utility services. Section three gives...
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