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  • Annual results 2015

    Overall performance | Investing for customers | Working in partnership | Financial results | Planning for the future

    Colin-Skellett 660

    An overview from Colin Skellett, Chief Executive

    Overall performance

    The year covered by this report was the last in the five-year regulatory control period that began on 1 April 2010. These five years have been the most challenging since Wessex Water was privatised just over 25 years ago, driven by both the economic climate and the growing impact of the changing physical climate.

    Our focus has been on understanding the changing needs of our customers and responding to the pressures that many have been under as a result of the recession. At the same time we have maintained the highest levels of environmental and quality compliance, continued to invest in creating greater resilience to climate change and supported economic growth across the Wessex Water region.

    Throughout the period we have delivered first class customer service, with very high levels of customer satisfaction, enabling us to top the customer service league tables for water and sewerage companies for the seventh consecutive year.

    We have continued to provide more choice to customers in the way they interact with us, including greater use of social media and text messaging, the introduction of online billing and a complete relaunch of our website.

    We also provide tailored assistance programmes for customers who struggle to pay their bills with more than 18,000 customers now benefiting from our social tariffs or restart programmes.

    Average bills were frozen in real terms for 2014-15 and reduced by 5% from 1 April 2015.

    Service standards remain high; it is 38 years since restrictions on water use were last imposed in the Wessex Water supply area.

    For the reporting year our drinking water compliance was 99.97% and sewage treatment compliance was 99.7%. Whilst the varying weather patterns caused problems, we achieved a reduction in the total number of pollution incidents and halved the number of serious incidents. However, we know more needs to be done to deal with the changing rainfall patterns – longer dry periods and more intense rainfall – so we have committed to further major investments over the coming years.

    Investing for customers

    Through careful planning, innovative approaches and greater use of in-house resources we delivered our largest ever investment programme. We met all regulatory outputs, which included major customer focused programmes to reduce leakage and sewage flooding. Our overall investment programme was delivered under budget and the efficiency savings shared between customers and investors.

    We are now more than halfway through the construction of our integrated water supply grid, which will improve resilience of supplies to customers and deliver improvements in the water environment. As part of this project we have developed an innovative system to optimise the supplies of water across the region, so minimising future operating costs. The whole grid project is
    on track for completion in 2018.

    Innovation is a key element of our investment programme. We use industry leading no-dig techniques to replace and renew below ground assets, so minimising the impact on customers and communities. Many new ideas come from our employees; these are supplemented by trials of new technologies and our joint research programme with the University of Bath, as part of which we have developed a centre for water research and innovation based at the university.

    We invest for the long term and take very seriously our role to maintain our assets for future generations. This was recognised by our regulator and all our assets achieved a stable serviceability rating throughout the last five years, a period that included the transfer to us of private sewers, which doubled the length of our sewer network. The transfer was completed without any additional funding and with no impact on services to customers.

    Working in partnership

    While we play a major part in the provision of essential services, we are not the only contributors. We recognise our place in the wider community
    and within the environment and have continued to work with stakeholders to develop partnership arrangements.

    These include a multi-agency bathing water group set up to improve the bathing waters at Burnham, and working with local councils in developing surface water management plans, such as the ‘super pond’ constructed at Weston-super-Mare.

    We have also introduced focused customer information campaigns to improve awareness of water and environmental issues. This has included our Be Smart Love Your Loo campaign to inform customers about the problems caused by non-flushable wipes.

    We are passionate about sharing our know-how with young people and last year more than 24,000 students benefited from school visits and trips to our sites. We are also a science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) ambassador and have helped run workshops to promote science and engineering to young learners.

    Our Watermark award scheme has been operating for more than 20 years to support organisations with their environmental projects across the region. We also work closely with wildlife trusts and local nature partnerships on areas such as biodiversity.

    We argued hard to remove the historical boom-bust investment cycle between five-year price review periods, which was both inefficient and a source of frustration for suppliers. We have implemented a programme which has allowed us to successfully smooth our investment and secure local jobs for the long term.

    Not only has this programme helped our supply chain but, as a major regional employer, it has also allowed us to invest in more apprenticeship and trainee programmes.

    The quality and dedication of our employees is key to our success. We are developing our future leaders to ensure we have the diverse, fully skilled and fulfilled employees we require to successfully provide on-going outstanding service to our customers, communities and environment.

    We take our responsibilities to protect our staff, contractors and customers extremely seriously and continue to embed a strong health, safety and
    welfare culture in all our operations.

    Financial results

    Turnover for 2014-15 was £540.3m and profit after tax £140.7m. Capital investment in the year was £198.4m. Operating costs rose by £8.5m to £291.9m, largely as a result of new plant coming on stream to meet new obligations.

    Planning for the future

    The latest price review covering the five years from 1 April 2015 was extremely tough, reflecting the difficult economic climate. Bills for customers will come down in real terms, investment will be at the highest level ever and we will need to be even more innovative to deliver all the outputs, maintain our industry leading service standards and deliver satisfactory returns to investors.

    Our customers were at the heart of the price review; over 24,000 customers and more than 90 organisations were consulted. Our customer liaison
    panels and the independent customer scrutiny group played major roles and I am grateful to all those involved.

    Customers and partnerships will continue to be central to all we do over the next five years as we deliver the commitments we have made, prepare for the opening of a competitive retail market for business customers and tackle the challenges of upstream reform and ongoing climate change.

    Wessex Water is extremely fortunate in having an excellent long-term owner, YTL, a loyal, skilled workforce and a first class board of directors. I must particularly thank Peter Costain, who retired from the board during the year after many years of dedicated service. Peter provided wisdom, expertise and an acute sense of the right question to ask.

    We are fortunate to have as Peter’s replacement Huw Davies, who brings a wealth of financial and construction expertise to the board.

    To prepare for the period ahead we have restructured our business and renewed our mission, aims and values. Providing customers with first-class affordable services remains our key aim. Wessex Water is in excellent shape and fully ready to take on the challenges of the next five years.

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