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the six months to 30 September 2015.
Financial performance |
Customers and communities |
The first six months of the new AMP6 period have reinforced our position as the leading water and sewerage company for customer service. We continue to top Ofwat’s SIM league table and have further reduced complaints, with CCWater highlighting that we have received the lowest level of complaints for the fifth
Our leading performance is based on our prompt warm voice answering of contacts. This is increasingly being supplemented by digital communication routes such as Live Chat, texting and online self-service as customers’ engagement preferences change. We have also introduced an online ‘work in our area’ map so customers
can track where work is being carried out close to them and what impact it may have.
For AMP6 we have set ourselves stretching commitments to deal with issues such as customer reported leaks, sewer flooding and local abstraction issues. We will explain our progress against these to our customers and the overall outcomes we agreed with them as part of the recent business plan.
We will also be held to account by the new Wessex Water Partnership, the successor to our Customer Challenge Group. This comprises a dozen independent stakeholders such as Citizens Advice, Age UK, the Environment Agency and the Consumer Council for Water, who will scrutinise and
report on our performance.
The partnership chair has been selected by an independent panel and we are pleased to announce the appointment of Dan Rogerson, who was previously water minister under the coalition government. The appointment takes effect from January 2016.
We take seriously customers’ ability to pay their bills and through our TAP programme offer customers tailored solutions for affordability problems, with 20,000 households so far having benefited from one or more of our schemes. Alongside this our bills reduced from April 2015 by around 5% on average.
Our unique package of customer service and care initiatives for those in financial difficulty or who have additional needs has been recognised with the award of the British Standard for Inclusive Services, an industry first.
Maintaining the supply of water remains a primary objective and last summer marked the 39thyear without supply restrictions in our region. The provision of resilient services for the future is essential to ensuring we meet the demands of the
next generation. Our eight-year £230m water supply grid programme remains on track to be completed in 2018.
We take more than 30,000 water quality samples a year to ensure our supplies meet the strictest requirements. So far this year only one sample has failed due to our own assets. However, there have been a further 9 failures due to customers’ taps and pipework, reducing compliance
to 99.96%. We continue to work with the Water Regulations Authority and retailers who sell unapproved fittings to try and minimise customer failures.
Other work is also progressing well across our region with some of the earliest projects due to deliver improvements in the Bridgwater area to reduce storm spills and improve the quality of the bathing water at Burnham beach. The latter is to meet the new requirements of the tighter Bathing Water Standard.
We fully recognise that our employees are essential to our success and have implemented a range of initiatives centred around attracting, developing and retaining a wide range of employees with the aim of reflecting the diversity of the region that we serve.
Our results for the half year show that operating profit decreased by £5.1m from £125.3m to £120.2m, while profit after taxation increased by £13.0m from £71.1m to £84.1m.
Total turnover decreased by £8.4m from £270.6m to £262.2m. Regulated tariff turnover decreased by £8.1m of which £10.3m was due to a 5.9% price cut imposed by Ofwat, partially offset by November RPI of 2.0%. The decrease was then reduced by the effect of new customers and increased sales volume. Turnover from non-tariff activities
decreased by £0.3m.
Operational costs (excluding depreciation) decreased by £3.6m from £95.2m to £91.6m. Whilst there were upward pressures on costs due to inflation and new obligations these were more than offset by the delivery of targeted savings. These savings came from
the control of chemical and energy consumption, power prices, the amount provided for bad debts and a reduction in the company’s workforce at the start of the year.
Depreciation and amortisation increased by £0.3m from £50.1m to £50.4m. There was an increase of £0.4m in base depreciation, as new assets were depreciated for the first time, less an increase of £0.1m in amortisation of deferred income.
Net interest payable decreased by £0.8m. Despite an increase in net debt gross interest payable decreased by £1.6m from £37.7m to £36.1m mainly because of lower inflation affecting index-linked bonds. However, there was a £0.4m increase in the interest costs relating to IAS 19 pension accounting and a £0.4m decrease in
interest receivable. Overall the average cost of debt fell from 4.0% to 3.9%.
Total taxation, including deferred tax, reduced from a £15.4m charge last year to a £1.9m credit this year. The mainstream corporation tax charge increased from £6.3m last year to £13.7m this year whilst deferred tax moved from a £9.1m charge last year to a £15.6m credit
The corporation tax rate fell from 21% to 20%, but there was a significant increase in corporation tax this year because of the tax credit in the prior year arising from first time adoption of IFRS.
Deferred tax moved from a charge last year to a credit this year because the deferred tax rate has reduced from 20% at the start of the year to 18%, creating a £19.0m deferred tax credit in the half year. This reduction in the tax rate was announced in the Chancellor’s budget
earlier in the year.
Dividends declared for the six months to 30 September 2015 were £35.0m being a reduction of £35.3m compared to the same period last year as no additional final dividend was declared in the period relating to the previous year. Gross capital investment for the six months totalled
£87.4m which was very similar to last year.
Net debt increased by £10.0m from £1,847.9m to £1,857.9m in the six months to 30 September. The net cash inflow from operating activities was £170.6m less net capital investment of £80.2m, less interest payments of £20.7m, less tax payments of £15.7m, less working capital
and bond accrual outflow of £24.8m, less dividend payments of £39.2m.
Liquidity at 30 September 2015 was £278.0m comprising cash deposits of £78.0m and £200.0m of undrawn bank facilities.
From April 2015 our five-year and long-term plans are organised around nine outcomes, identified as the highest priorities for customers. The nine outcomes include the measures with targets for 2015-16.
In April, Ofwat made changes to the Service Incentive Mechanism (SIM). The main one is that customers are now asked to rate our service at any point during their experience with us, rather than at the end when it is resolved. Additionally, the SIM will cover domestic customers only and telephone measures such as abandoned calls have
been removed. We have therefore not made comparisons with previous years’ performance.
Performance across the measures in 2015 has largely remained stable, with reductions seen in customer contacts about water quality, leakage and the average minutes lost due to supply interruptions greater than three hours.
We have seen an increase in the level of abstractions at Mere, Wiltshire, where the period of abstraction started earlier due to the drier weather at the beginning of the year, coupled with the unavailability of other sources. Internal sewer flooding incidents also show an increase this half-year but this is within usual seasonal
We have made good overall progress in terms of the performance commitments and outcomes we set out in our business plan as shown in the table below.
Excellent service for customers
Excellent customer service is one of our key outcomes and we put customers at the heart of everything we do.
The new Service Incentive Mechanism went live on April 1 and we are delighted that we have continued to be the best performing water and sewerage company in England and Wales, topping the league table for customer satisfaction for the first six months of 2015-16.
Alongside this we have continued to see a reduction in unwanted contacts, including repeat contacts, and written complaints are in line with last year.
We continue to engage on a day-to-day basis with our customers through a variety of channels. In any one year we talk to around 60,000 customers as part of this routine engagement and their voice does make a difference.
Our customer feedback surveys give us invaluable insight into the areas where customers believe we can do better or where they feel we do well. The surveys show that the main drivers of both our satisfaction and ease of resolution measures are quick response times, first-time resolution of problems and
keeping customers informed of what we are doing at all times. These are areas where customers always welcome improvements. Customers also tell us that they value our prompt, warm voice telephone answering and having a choice in the way they can communicate with us.
Our customer care team keep customers informed throughout their operational contact and seek feedback by phone or text once all work is complete. Satisfaction over the first six months of the year is lower than for the same period last year although in part this was caused by a switch to text based survey
rather than any underlying deterioration in full year performance. We have also strengthened the resourcing of the customer care team.
We continue to make wider use of proactive text messaging and social media posting during operational problems such as burst water mains and we’ve introduced an online ‘work in our area’ map so customers can track where work is being carried out across our region and, in particular, the impact this may have, such as road works.
With a growing preference for digital engagement, our alternative contact channels such as Live Chat, texting and online self-service are increasing in popularity. We are also seeing a growth in customers signing up to our ebilling service.
This year we have launched a service where customers can send in photographs from their smart phone, for example if they want to report a leak. This information helps us to have the right team out on site more quickly.
In our business plan we committed to making our service inclusive and accessible to all customers. This is particularly important if a customer becomes vulnerable, which can happen at any time. Our approach to customer service and customer care, coupled with the support schemes we offer to customers in financial difficulty or who have
specific additional needs such as a disability, has enabled us to achieve the British Standard for Inclusive Services, the first of our performance commitments.
This sits alongside our government Customer Service Excellence award and Louder than Words Charter. We have also been awarded the best practice mark for our continuing support for the Keep Me Posted campaign.
Although we have made great progress, we are not standing still and under the direction of our customer experience group, comprising senior managers from across the business, we continue to seek ways to improve our service further and meet customers’ growing expectations.
We have introduced the net promoter score as a new measure of our customer service. We want to understand how we perform against admired brands outside the water sector – particularly important given we are a monopoly.
Improving value for money remains a priority and we’re currently looking at the design and layout of our bill and wider information provision. The results of our last two surveys with our online ‘Have your say’ customer panel will help shape this work. Following the launch of our new, more customer focused, website we are reviewing the style
of our written correspondence and the information we provide to customers including our policy documents to make them far more engaging and personal.
Following consultation with our ‘Have your say’ panel we launched our new Wessex Water Promise on 1 April. The promise continues to offer one of the best overall packages of guarantees and compensation in the industry and exceeds the statutory guaranteed standards scheme. We have also teamed up with Simply Thank You in order to offer bespoke
gifts to our customers as part of our no quibble compensation.
One of our key outcomes is to ensure bills are affordable for all, because while they are for the great majority of our customers, there are some who face significant financial pressure.
We remain committed to tackling this issue and through our tap programme we offer customers tailored solutions to their affordability problems via a range of schemes and low rate tariffs to help them afford their ongoing charges and repay their debts, along with practical help to reduce their water and energy use. We deliver this
support through long standing and very effective partnerships with the debt advice sector, either face to face, telephone or online providers.
In our business plan we said we expected the number of customers benefiting from tap in the future to increase by 10,000. We have already made real progress and now have around 20,000 customers on tap with some customers on more than one scheme compared to 15,000 stated in our plan. Around 15,000 are benefiting from Assist or
WaterSure Plus, our two social tariffs.
Alongside this we have also reduced bills in 2015-16 by around 5% on average while disposable income has begun to increase in relation to inflation.
This year we are focusing on continuing to expand our network of more general advice partners, making it as easy as possible for customers to access our schemes, particularly those who receive telephone or online advice, and using deprivation data to better target our publicity.
We have also made more use of alternative engagement techniques, producing a ‘help with your water bills’ video on YouTube, and developing a video training package for advice agency staff and volunteers on our schemes. Our online application forms have also gone live.
We are forging exciting links with local councils and housing associations keen to improve support for mutual customers across our region, particularly those on benefits. We are working on a number of joint promotions both directly to these customers and via joint community events.
We are in our third year of our Money Matters awards and have so far provided grants to 15 different organisations delivering financial capability and money management projects across our region. And we are working with the Money Advice Service to pilot its new framework to evaluate the effectiveness of financial capability projects.
Our latest two projects are aimed at two very diverse but hard to reach groups. The first is working with female offenders as they leave prison, giving them the financial skills to manage a household budget and the second is working with elderly people who are likely to go without essentials to make ends meet.
Education and community involvement
Over the last six months over 15,000 students visited our education centres which once again include Sutton Bingham, reopened after temporary closure while improvements were made at the nearby water treatment works, and Trowbridge, reopened after a major renovation.
Our three education advisers teach a range of topics to students and community groups, encouraging all ages to use water wisely and change their habits when flushing the toilet.
We took the Wessex Water exhibition vehicle to several venues this summer as part of our Be smart save water campaign, quizzing customers at locations such as the Royal Bath and West Show and Yeovilton Air Day to determine their water usage habits.
We also attended the Bristol Harbourside festival this year to talk to customers about sewerage. This is one of Bristol’s busiest events and inside our exhibition vehicle customers took part in a quiz to test their knowledge about what shouldn’t be flushed down the sewers.
Our Watermark awards, which include the sustainable Watermark, have been extended and now include grid community awards for groups with environmental projects that require funding in areas affected by our water supply grid programme.
Meeting new demands
Maintaining the supply of water remains a primary objective and last summer marked the 39th year without supply restrictions in our region.
We have kept our focus on reducing leakage from our extensive network of around 11,500 km of mains and have consistently met the leakage target every year. This level of active leakage control is continuing to drive down leakage to meet our target.
Our water efficiency initiatives to help customers reduce their consumption include free device distribution through our WaterSave packs and low flow showerheads that help customers to save energy as well as water. We have also continued with our schools’ education service and commercial audits and are on course to meet our water
efficiency performance commitment for 2015-16.
We have launched a project working with schools to undertake detailed audits and contribute to the cost of measures to help them become water efficient focusing on schools with the highest use per pupil. This has been taken up enthusiastically by schools and is delivering real savings.
New development in our region continues apace at a time when external scrutiny of levels of service in this area has significantly increased. The Better Connected initiative, started by the coalition government, has been taken on by water and sewerage companies, resulting in quarterly publication of a range of performance indicators
relating to how we facilitate new development.
We are actively engaged with an industry-wide consultation process, reporting to DEFRA, on charging levels for new developments and this work is expected to result in a revision to the current charging arrangements across the UK.
Work also continues on developing the codes and changes required to allow non-household customers to choose their retailer of water and sewerage services from April 2017. The Open Water programme will permit property developers to choose a retailer for provision of building water services prior to the occupation of newly developed properties.
This wider change is occurring when large new developments in North Bristol, Weston-super-Mare and other regional towns are starting to progress beyond planning and into early construction phases. We are working closely with these developers in ensuring timely provision of the required infrastructure.
Our service delivery and investment plans focus on seven of our nine outcomes detailed below.
We continue to reduce leakage and in the first six months of the report year it is below target, maintaining headroom in case we experience severe weather this winter.
Highest quality drinking water
Our mean zonal compliance for the half year was 99.96%, which is slightly lower than last year. This measure, which is the mean of zonal compliance for 39 parameters in 88 zones, is very sensitive to individual failures. So far in 2015 there have only been 10 failures out of the 27,000 tests that have taken place. All except one of the
failures can be attributed to domestic plumbing and service pipe issues such as lead service pipes, nickel in taps and taste due to water softeners. The remaining failure was due to iron from a cast iron water main.
Our approach to ensuring the quality of the water we supply to customers includes tackling worsening raw water quality as well as improvement and maintenance of our water treatment and supply assets.
Deteriorating raw water quality has often triggered multi-million pound investment in water treatment works. To avoid these high cost schemes and to develop more sustainable solutions we are continuing our innovative strategy of catchment management.
Our catchment management specialists are working alongside the local farming community to identify potential pollutant pathways and find alternative management practices that protect and improve raw water quality. For AMP6 we have expanded the programme to 20 sources.
Our work generally involves providing advice to farmers, supported by on-site monitoring of nitrate levels in the soils and water. This data gives them field specific information as to the level of nitrogen in the soil and how much is being leached into the ground and surface water. The leached nitrate is not only a problem for us, it
also represents a loss of nutrients and money for the farmer. Where appropriate we are looking to agree more radical changes with farmers, such as reverting arable fields to grassland. This can be expensive and to ensure the right balance of funding we are seeking to do this in conjunction with the new Countryside Stewardship scheme.
Major process extensions and maintenance work at Sutton Bingham, which serves the Yeovil area, were undertaken last year. The £13m project includes improved additional treatment processes to deal with pesticides, taste and odour and manganese.
Improved bathing waters
The revised EU Bathing Water Directive requires that from 2015 bathing waters must meet tighter microbiological standards.
At Highbridge we have started construction of an ultraviolet disinfection process to treat discharges from our stormwater storage tanks. The project is progressing well and due to be completed ahead of the programme date of 31 March 2016.
Event duration monitoring (EDM) is being installed in the vast majority of our combined sewer overflows (CSOs) by 2020. We have installed more than 30 EDM sites in the previous six months and aim to install a further 70 by the end of the year.
When the highest risk coastal and inland CSOs spill, we automatically report this on our Coastwatch system. This near real-time reporting of spills is intended to warn bathers of potential poor water quality and the information is shown on our website and text messages sent to beach owners and campaign groups such as Surfers against
Rivers, lakes and estuaries protected
Delivering environmental improvements to rivers and lakes in our region through enhancements at our sewage treatment works and sewerage network will be one of the largest parts of our programme in the next five years.
During the first six months of this year we carried out engineering appraisals on four schemes to improve levels of ammoniacal nitrogen discharged from our STWs at Glastonbury, Grittleton, Wanstrow and Kilmersdon. The objective is to avoid any deterioration to river water quality due to development in the STW catchments.
We have also been working with the Environment Agency to develop an innovative catchment permitting process to apply to phosphorus removal projects across the Bristol Avon river catchment area. This has helped inform the final version of the National Environment Programme (NEP5) which will be published in January 2016.
We have begun our innovative project to reduce the level of nitrogen in the rivers feeding Poole Harbour because high levels encourage the growth of algae which damage the harbour as a Special Protection Area for birds. As part of Defra’s catchment based approach for Poole Harbour it was determined that the best way Wessex Water could help
reduce nitrate was to work with farmers in reducing their inputs rather than building another nitrate removal plant at Dorchester. Wessex Water already has one nitrate removal plant in the catchment, at the sewage works in Poole which removes approximately 400 tonnes a year of nitrogen. However, it was very expensive to build and is very
chemical intensive to operate.
Sewage flooding minimised
Sewer flooding is rare but when it does occur it can be devastating so tackling it remains a key focus. We have introduced a new measure which expands the flood register to include internal and external flooding. It also has been extended to include lower likelihoods and this year we have already reduced the risk of flooding at 46
The responsibility for flooding is often complex and we work with local authorities as they produce surface water management plans and strategies to review flood management. These liaison meetings are increasing in frequency and we are being consulted more than before, together with the planning authorities responsible for approving
sustainable solutions. We are also contributing towards partnership schemes where we have a vested interest.
We are preparing for the transfer of the private pumping stations in October 2016; undertaking sample surveys of these assets and looking to adopt some early where they are causing problems.
In addition to delivering reductions in abstraction as agreed with the Environment Agency, our water supply grid, which will be completed in 2018, will enable us to move water more effectively around our region, ensure future demand is met and improve the resilience of supplies to customers.
The project is on programme and excellent progress has been made in 2015. All the pipelines for the trunk main system from Corfe Mullen to Salisbury have now been installed. New storage tanks at Snowsdown (Blandford), Littledown (Shaftesbury), Summerslade Down (near Warminster) and Camp Hill (Salisbury) are complete and pumping
stations at Monkton Deverill and Sturminster Marshall are substantially completed with major redevelopment of Codford water treatment works well underway.
Reduced carbon footprint
All sludge generated from the waste water treatment process is disposed of safely and in a way that meets mandatory standards. An increasing proportion of our sludge is treated using the anaerobic digestion process which reduces the volume of sludge to be recycled while generating renewable energy, reducing our costs and carbon footprint.
We have a performance commitment to increase the proportion of self-generated energy and are investing in upgrades to our sludge digestion facilities to increase the proportion of sludge that we digest. This includes the installation of advanced anaerobic digestion at Trowbridge and Taunton and additional digestion capacity at Berry
The plant at Trowbridge has been installed and commissioning of the new plant is approaching completion. We are now exporting power from this site. At Berry Hill additional digestion capacity has been installed enabling plant capacity to be maintained while the existing digesters are refurbished. When this refurbishment work is
completed the site will be able to process more sludge.
Biodiversity – Partners Programme
Over the 2010-2015 period we have invested £350,000 in 11 projects. However, the projects themselves have been able to raise a further £1,123,780 in additional funding, resulting in a total investment in the environment of approximately £1.47m across the region. So, for every £1 invested by Wessex Water, an additional £3 has been brought
into the projects to enable them to deliver more benefits for the environment.
Phase 5 of our Partners Programme began in April 2015, running for the duration of the AMP until March 2020. This programme supports external organisations across our region to deliver biodiversity gain in line with our core functions. To conserve and enhance biodiversity outside our own landholding the projects are focused on three
themes including: science and research, partnership working and catchment scale delivery.
Following feedback from previously funded organisations, our approach has changed to fund fewer projects at a higher level and to provide a twice-yearly small grants fund.
Biodiversity – land management
We own around 3,500 hectares of land which includes operational sites, tenanted agricultural land, nature reserves and amenity or recreational land. We have a duty, under the Water Industry and Natural Environment and Rural Communities Acts, to conserve and enhance biodiversity on our landholding.
In AMP6 we have a new performance commitment to assess 100% of our landholding for biodiversity and to manage it appropriately. To date, around 50% of land is managed for biodiversity through our efforts and through tenanted agricultural land which is managed under agri-environment stewardship schemes.
We have retained our high levels of compliance with the Defra SSSI SLA target, with 99.46% of our SSSIs in favourable or recovering condition and 67% in favourable condition. We are still working to determine the best mechanisms for maintaining consistent management actions on operational sites.
Managing our abstractions
Summer 2015 was the first when the formal performance commitment has been in place to minimise our exports from the water source at Mere when river flows are low. By the end of September just over 150 megalitres of water had been exported – which is about a third of what could have been exported if we had followed the abstraction
We diverted 98% of all non-sludge waste from landfill for the first six months of 2015-16. The only remaining wastes now being sent to landfill are contaminated wastes and a small amount of general waste in the south of the region. We are continuing to explore recycling routes for these remaining materials to move towards a 100% landfill
Wessex Water’s net greenhouse gas emissions for the period, as reported to Ofwat, stood at 68 kilotonnes carbon dioxide equivalent, compared with 75 kilotonnes in the first six months of 2014-15. The main reasons for the reduction are the company’s ongoing energy efficiency work, the moderate weather conditions during the period and the
fact that the carbon dioxide intensity of UK grid electricity has fallen from 537g per kWh to 500g per kWh.
Diversity and culture
We recognise that a diverse workforce brings richness to our work environment. We also believe that attracting, developing and retaining employees who reflect the diversity of our customers is essential to our success. Throughout 2015 we have been progressing the promotion of diversity within the organisation and have implemented a
range of initiatives centred around attracting, retaining and developing a diverse workforce. We are currently reviewing and encouraging a range of flexible working options and reporting a diversity scorecard to our board and employees.
Health and safety
We place the greatest importance upon the health, safety and welfare of our employees and others in the working environment, encouraging a culture that recognises that health and safety is integral to everything we do and is ‘not an optional extra’.
Concerned about a gradual increase in the number of significant incidents, in late 2014 our board asked for a review of health and safety arrangements. The review, completed in early 2015, highlighted the need to ensure a consistent approach to the management of health and safety across all areas of the business and the benefits of
sharing best practice, such as the Make it Right behavioural safety initiative in engineering and construction. Recommendations have been implemented and our performance has improved as a result.
For the second consecutive year, we have won the power and utilities sector award in the British Safety Council’s 2015 International Safety Award scheme. There were 545 applications for the initial award and our submission scored 59/60. The top submissions in each sector were then shortlisted for the sector award. The sector awards have
only been running for two years and we have won it on both occasions.
Engineering and construction were commended in the 2015 Royal Society for the Protection of Accidents (RoSPA) annual occupational health and safety construction and engineering industry sector awards. Entrants must be able to demonstrate a robust and high quality safety management system together with a minimum of four years'
consistently excellent or continuously improving health and safety performance. RoSPA recognised the commitment to accident and ill health prevention through the Make It Right initiative, endorsing our campaign to promote health, safety and well-being as an integral part of our safety culture.