W HEN consultation replaces confrontation, harmony is usually the result.

And when that process helps to reduce the bills for some of life's essentials, it is a development to be applauded.

It is an approach that has led to a consumer-friendly deal over water bills, with Scottish Water and the Water Industry Commission committed to maintaining low-level increases in charges for the next six years.

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The idea was pioneered by former Scottish Government minister Peter Peacock, who chaired the Customer Forum for Water. It negotiated a keen pricing policy that is expected to see water charges in Scotland remain well below the average household charges of private companies in England and Wales.

Mr Peacock says the outcome demonstrates that the scheme is ripe for expansion, arguing that the public should now be given a role in helping to set rail fares and energy prices.

A process that reduces the domestic customer's sense of disillusionment when engaging with corporate hegemony is surely to be welcomed. Cut-price power to the public: that is a mantra we can all live with.