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Ofwat plans tighter measures on water company executive bonuses

  • Ofwat plans tighter measures on water company executive bonuses

About the entity

Ofwat
The economic regulator of the water sector in England and Wales.

Themes

Ofwat has outlined new plans to ensure customers do not fund executive bonus payments where they have not been sufficiently earned through the company’s performance for customers and the environment. Ofwat will regularly review all executive director bonus payments and where the regulator’s expectations have not been met, customers will no longer pick up the bill.

In new proposed guidance, Ofwat expects water company remuneration committees to take full account of performance for customers and the environment, and performance overall, when deciding whether to award bonuses to senior executives. Company policies and decisions on bonus payments will need to align to the expectations set out in the published guidance.

Water companies will remain responsible for setting performance related pay but in their role as a monopoly provider of essential public services, they need to demonstrate greater accountability. This recovery mechanism will apply new regulatory scrutiny to Board room and remuneration committee decision-making.

Ofwat’s review of company decisions on pay awards will be based on a wide range of criteria, including environmental performance, delivery for customers, overall financial health, and compliance issues – all factors which Ofwat expect companies to consider themselves. The proposals are the latest step in Ofwat’s programme of work to link Board-level financial decision making to company performance.

Earlier this month (20 March) Ofwat announced new licence conditions prohibiting water companies from paying dividends to investors if their financial resilience is at risk. Those new powers will also allow the regulator to take enforcement action against water companies that do not link dividend payments to performance.

David Black, Ofwat Chief Executive, said: “In too many cases, bonuses paid do not reflect the reality of company performance. Customer trust is damaged when executive bonuses are not aligned to water company performance for customers and the environment.

“We said that if companies did not address this we would take action, and that is exactly what we are doing. Alongside our new rules on dividend payments, this is part of our ongoing work to make companies more accountable for their actions.”

Ofwat is consulting on the new mechanism in proposed guidance to companies. The consultation closes on 1 May 2023.

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