Glas Cymru is already demonstrating how this approach [involving customers and being socially and environmentally responsible) can be applied to large-scale utilities. Glas Cymru is a non-profit company that owns Welsh Water (Dwr Cymru). The company has no shareholders, and any financial surpluses are retained or reinvested for the benefit of Welsh Water’s customers. Welsh Water’s users are paid an annual dividend which, since 2001, has seen £98 million returned to customers. It is governed by 72 members, who are appointed under the recommendation of an independent membership selection board. Since coming seventh in [the government regulator] Ofwat’s customer satisfaction rankings in 2001, Welsh Water has consistently been ranked in the top four, topping the table in 2004/05.
Furthermore, it is repeatedly innovating the better to serve its customers and the environment, including trialling a new tariff, Waterdirect, which gives an additional £25 discount for any customers who choose to have their water bill paid directly from certain qualifying state benefits. This discount, for some of Welsh Water’s less well-off customers, when added to the customer dividend, could reduce their water bill by more than 10%. This is in addition to the existing WaterSure tariff, which helps low-income families and individuals whose water is supplied by meter by limiting their water charges, and the Customer Assistance Fund run in partnership with the Citizens Advice Bureau, which offers customers in arrears help to pay charges on a regular basis.
Welsh Water is also taking an industry lead in addressing the problem of disruption to the natural drainage systems, which is increasing the likelihood of sewerage flooding. It has commissioned large-scale studies in Wales as part of its surface water management strategy, which will provide a long-term vision of how Welsh Water will deal with surface water flows for the next 25 years. Its first goal is to encourage its partners in local and central government to legislate to protect green spaces, and to encourage the inclusion of sustainable drainage systems in new building developments.
By removing the motivation of shareholder profit, it has been better able to address the needs of its customers and the environment and bring about a joint approach to addressing some of the challenges we face.
Source: Jonathan Bland in Social Enterprise for Public Service - How does the third sector deliver? ed. Paul Hunter, Smith Institute, London, 2009, ISBN 1 905370 44, chapter 1. http://www.tsrc.ac.uk/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=5MOUWQwqcLM%3d&tabid=523
Glas Cymru website: http://www.glascymru.com/