Top performance for Wessex Water during Covid-19 crisis
Wessex Water has continued to provide uninterrupted, high-quality water and sewerage services through the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic to homes, hospitals, schools and businesses across our region.
Around one third of employees worked from home, including all billing and customer service staff. Meanwhile, operational and construction staff continued their on-site work using safe distancing and specialist PPE where appropriate.
To support local communities, the company launched the multi-million pound Wessex Water Foundation, which mainly benefits people hit hardest by the Covid-19 crisis in its first year. Then from 2021 it will provide at least half a million pounds of funding every year to support community projects, debt advice and charities.
Wessex Water did not take any support funding from the government and none of its staff were furloughed. Where there was reduced workload because of the lockdown restrictions, staff were either redeployed to support other business areas or assisted in voluntary community work.
Chief executive Colin Skellett said: “I am proud of the way that everyone in the business has responded: our high levels of customer service have continued unchanged, compliance with quality and regulatory standards has remained very high and we have been able to provide help to communities, businesses and individual customers.
“One of the most satisfying initiatives was our offer of a £50 rebate on metered bills for frontline NHS staff to cover the cost of additional uniform washing as a result of Covid-19. More than 10,000 key NHS employees have signed up for this rebate.
“Across all areas, our team have shown their commitment, professionalism and versatility during the crisis.”
Top performance and achievements
Today (7 July) Wessex Water published its annual results for 2019-20, which showed the company performed well during the final year of the five-year price and investment period and was consistently rated as one of the top water and sewerage companies for service, efficiency, standards and environmental performance.
The company achieved top place in Ofwat’s efficiency ranking, delivered industry leading customer service and operational performance, returned to “industry leading” status in the Environment Agency’s environmental performance assessment and, for the ninth year running, had the fewest complaints per 10,000 customers of any water and sewerage company.
Ninety eight percent of customers rated the company’s service as good or very good and its Customer Service Excellence award was renewed for the fourth time.
Wessex Water again met its leakage target which is at its lowest ever level. Meanwhile when demand for water supply increased in summer 2019, the company was able to move water around its region using its water supply grid – a multi-million pound scheme completed during the five-year investment period.
Other achievements included:
- Being a four-star leading performer according to the Environment Agency’s annual environmental performance assessment.
- A 9% increase in the number of low-income customers receiving support with their bills or debt and a 67% increase in the number registered for Priority Services.
- Launching Trustpilot to seek customer opinion on its service, achieving a five-star rating on 83% of reviews.
- 100% compliance with abstraction licences, sludge standards and National Environment Programme outputs.
- Successfully delivering 54 tonnes per year of phosphorus reduction in the Bristol Avon against a target of 44 tonnes per year as part of a UK first catchment permitting trial.
- Growing the use of the Wessex Water Marketplace to help bring new ideas and solutions to the challenges faced.
Mr Skellett said: “We met every one of the five-year targets that were set, which demonstrates the effectiveness of our scheme delivery. Our record investment of £1.4 billion over the next five years will see further improvements made to water and sewerage services, benefiting customers and helping to further protect the environment.
“However, we do remain disappointed that the Ofwat price determination required bill reductions when the message from customers was that they favoured stable bills and more investment, which would have provided investment in greater resilience for the longer term.”
Protecting the natural environment
To raise river water quality standards, Wessex Water is pioneering the use of catchment-based approaches to deliver sustainable, cost effective solutions by dealing with the source of pollution, not just the symptoms. This includes working with farmers at 21 sites across the region to deliver bespoke, sustainable solutions.
Wessex Water has also called on government to no longer allow developers to have the right to connect surface water to combined systems, which adds to sewer capacity causing overflows to operate and release dilute sewage into rivers.
Through its water resources management plan, Wessex Water will balance supply and demand to protect the environment and ensure resilient supplies over the next 25 years. This plan includes a commitment to further reduce leakage levels by 15% by 2025.
Financial results for 2019-20 shows operating profit fell by £15.9m to £212.5m and turnover increased by £4.6m to £552.3m.