Terms of Reference

South Staffs and Cambridge Water Customer Panel

Terms of Reference 

1 WHAT IS THE PANEL?

1.1 The Panel is an independent and impartial board of customers, stakeholders and experts whose remit is to provide a rigorous, customer-focussed assessment of the business of South Staffordshire Water Plc (SSW). Customers in this context includes both consumers who are billed direct by the company and the community more widely who are affected by the environmental impact of water supply.

1.2 The Panel’s legal identity is provided by a Company Limited by Guarantee whose role is to enable the Panel and provide funding for the Panel’s expenses.

1.3 The Panel is the successor body to the merged Customer Challenge Groups (CCGs) for South Staffordshire and Cambridgeshire set up at the instance of the water industry’s economic regulator Ofwat (the Water Services Regulation Authority). The Panel covers SSW customers and environmental impact in both areas.

1.4 The Panel is required to provide assurances to Ofwat, the SSW Board and other stakeholders, that SSW fully engages with its customers and other stakeholders in delivering its services over the period 2015 to 2020 and beyond. In particular Ofwat, the SSW Board and other stakeholders will seek the Panel’s assessment of:

1.4.1 the quality of SSW’s customer engagement;

1.4.2 SSW’s response to the views of customers;

1.4.3 SSW’s commitment in delivering outcomes, changes in service delivery, and prices.

2 HOW WILL THE PANEL ACHIEVE THIS?

2.1 As a body fully independent of SSW, the Panel will:

2.1.1 receive reports from SSW and others, carry out research and consult experts so as to be able to offer impartial scrutiny of SSW’s engagement with its customers and other stakeholders;

2.1.2 challenge, advise and guide SSW on how to interpret the views and needs of customers and stakeholders in relation to the company’s longer-term strategy;

2.1.3 review and challenge the performance and delivery of SSW; and

2.1.4 encourage SSW to be innovative and effective and to operate in a sustainable, affordable and cost-effective manner for the benefit of customers, local communities and the wider environment.

3 REPORTING

3.1 To Ofwat: The Panel will be required to make one or more reports each year to Ofwat. The Panel’s annual report shall be made available to SSW and the Consumer Council for Water as well as Ofwat. The report will cover:

3.1.1 how SSW engages with customers and others

SSW’s engagement with the Panel, its customers and other stakeholders

the level of support given to the Panel

how the Panel has reviewed and challenged the company’s outcomes and performance

3.1.2 SSW’s Business Plan and Strategy

the level of innovation

whether the plan meets the needs of different customer groups

whether SSW has considered the best use of efficiency savings

what level of influence customers and stakeholders have had in the development of SSW’s business plan and strategy

whether SSW’s final business plan appears likely to be acceptable to a majority of customers as well as highlighting areas of concern.

3.2 To SSW: The Panel will make whatever recommendations to SSW it deems appropriate on any area within its remit where action or improvement is needed.

3.2.1 The Panel shall report to SSW non executive directors on a bi-annual basis. Forward dates for these reports will be scheduled at the beginning of each year.

3.2.2 At least once a year the Chairman shall report to the full SSW Board, and may attend on other occasions as appropriate and by agreement.

3.2.3 Outside of the formal meeting programme, the Chairman shall maintain a dialogue with key individuals in SSW including the board chairman, the independent non executive directors, the MD, the finance director and the customer services director.

4 PANEL MEMBERSHIP

4.1 Chairman. The Chairman of the Panel shall be appointed by the independent non executive directors of SSW, assisted by professional executive search consultants, and using an interview panel on which SSW does not hold a majority. The Chairman of the Panel shall be remunerated for his or her services. The remuneration for the Chairman is to be considered annually and will be determined in light of market best practice and with reference to the time commitment and responsibilities associated with the role. Such review will be undertaken by parties independent of the Chairman and SSW and neither SSW nor the Chairman will participate in discussions on the specific levels of remuneration.

4.2 Members. Initial members of the Panel will be appointed by the independent Chairman after consultation with a non executive director of SSW. Thereafter replenishment of the Panel will be managed by the Chairman. Recruitment shall be carried out in a transparent manner and selection will be criteria-based.

4.3 Composition. The Panel will consist of not less than 6 and not more than 20 members. Normally the Panel will include representatives of:

 

  • Household customers Environmental groups
  • Commercial customers Community representatives
  • Vulnerable customers Regulatory bodies
  • Individuals or organisations will be chosen for invitation so as to achieve balance and to embrace appropriate expertise which will enable the Panel to respond to the range of tasks and agendas coming before it.

 

4.4 Diversity. The membership of the Panel shall to the extent possible reflect ethnic, religious and gender diversity. Balance will also be sought between members drawn from Staffordshire and Cambridgeshire.

4.5 Deputy Chairman. The Panel shall appoint a Deputy Chairman from among its members.

4.6 Independence. Directors, officers, agents and employees of SSW and its associated companies are not eligible to be members of the Panel or of any sub group or committee formed by it, though they may be invited to attend meetings to give information or advice or as an observer. Though Panel members may be nominated by organisations and/or be associated with interest groups related to water or the environment, members serve in their personal capacities and not as delegates.

4.7 Term. It is intended that the Panel will play a significant part in the five-year planning cycle which applies to regulated water companies. Panel members will be sought who are willing to serve for 3 years or more, with a maximum term of 5 years. A second term of up to 5 years may be agreed. Members may resign from the Panel at any time before the end of their term by informing the Chairman in writing, preferably with enough notice for a replacement to be appointed.

5 WORKING OF THE PANEL

5.1 Number of Meetings. It is intended that the Panel will meet at least 4 times per year. During its establishment, and at critical times in the business planning cycle, more meetings may be needed.

5.2 Quorum. The Panel may conduct business when 4 or more of its members are present, one member being either the Chairman or the Deputy Chairman. A member who attends remotely via telephone or internet-based meeting software, shall be counted towards the quorum.

5.3 Decision Making. Decisions and recommendations will be made by a simple majority of the members attending a meeting. In the case of an equality of votes, the Chairman shall have the casting vote.

5.4 Delegation. The Panel may set up whatever working groups or sub-groups it thinks necessary, whether standing or ad hoc. Such groups will normally be chaired by a Panel member and may consist of whatever experts or consultees are deemed appropriate for the task in hand. The Panel may make rules or set procedures for such groups and may disband them at its discretion.

5.5 Panel meetings. The Panel itself will meet at locations determined by the Chairman. SSW will make its premises and offices available in both Walsall and Cambridge. To save members travelling, some meetings may be held remotely, for example by using the video conferencing facilities of SSW.

5.6 Operating costs. The Company Limited by Guarantee will pay all operational costs associated with the activities and running of the Panel. The Chairman will compile and agree an annual budget.

5.7 Expenses. Members may reclaim reasonable travelling expenses for attending meetings and will be offered an attendance fee to be determined by the Panel but initially set at £125 per meeting.

5.8 Agendas, Minutes and reports. A secretariat will be provided by the Chairman or by SSW as agreed. Meeting papers and associated materials will be copied to SSW in a timely manner by the secretariat. SSW shall ensure that minutes, agendas and reports are made available to their customers by publication within three working days on the company’s websites.

5.9 SSW observers. The Panel will include time on its agenda to meet without SSW present.

5.10 Funding. SSW will fund and meet the expenses of the Company Limited by Guarantee to ensure its effective management.

6 REVIEW OF THESE TERMS

6.1 The Panel shall review its terms of reference on an annual basis. SSW will be consulted on any proposed alterations.