Anthony Collins Briefing Note 4: Utilities- Market, State or Neither?

03 Jun 2024
Photo by Meritt Thomas on Unsplash

In briefing Note 4, the firm discusses and reviews the current ownership, operational, and legal framework UK utilities are under. The briefing is an opportunity for the Law Commission, which was asked to review and make legal recommendations by the Treasury, to further awareness of needed legal reform in a particular sector or industry.

The firm first outlines what utilities are and the nature of utilities: They are services that provide day-to-day essentials to private citizens, businesses, and institutions and require considerable infrastructure to provide these services. Because utilities provide the needs of various consumers, those who control these services must meet certain basic requirements to effectively provide them. However, the briefing finds that private and state ownership, although long-standing, have been coming up short. 

A more promising system would be mutual or cooperative ownership over utilities to allow consumers and workers impacted by these services to have a democratic say in them. Whereas company and state-owned law receive constant updates and attention, cooperative law still needs to be modernized and updated, particularly the ability of mutually owned enterprises to share capital and be protected from demutualization. 

The cooperative system provides a promising framework for utility ownership and control in the UK but requires changes to cooperative law that would strengthen and solidify these organizations. 


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United Kingdom