South West Water customers will each receive £20 from the company, meaning the supplier is giving away a total of £20million.
It claimed it was giving the money to households after ‘outperforming’ its last business plan.
Under the scheme, called WaterShare+, customers can choose to receive their £20 as credit for their water bill or as shares in Pennon Group plc, South West Water’s parent company.
Customers who choose not to have shares will automatically receive a £20 credit on their next bill.
South West Water is giving £20m to its customers after claiming it has ‘outperformed’
South West Water, which supplies Devon, Cornwall and areas in Dorset and Somerset, claim the money was made available after it beat its ‘tough targets’ during 2015 to 2020.
The firm is a subsidiary of the Pennon Group, a public company which sees 83 per cent of its profits coming from the water supplier.
The WaterShare+ Scheme was approved by shareholders at Pennon’s, South West Water’s AGM on 31 July 2020.
South West Water said customers are also being invited to have more say in how the business is run and from January 2021 they’ll be able to take part in customer-led panel meetings and quiz directors on progress against plans.
Bosses hope that the plan will restore faith in water firms, after they came under fire recently for not sufficiently tackling water pollution.
Susan Davy, Pennon Group chief executive, said: ‘This innovative scheme is about doing the right thing, ensuring our customers remain at the heart of our service and success.
‘Driven by our values and guided by what customers want, we hope WaterShare+ will build new levels of trust and transparency.
‘Society expects water companies to do more than deliver the basics. WaterShare+ is one of the ways we’re rising to the challenge.
‘It symbolises who we are as a business, supporting the lives of people and the places they love for generations to come.’
South West Water is offering its customers £20 either as money off their bill or as shares
Poor pollution rating
South West Water was recently criticised after a damning report from the Environment Agency was made public.
The Agency gives permits to water firms that allow them to put a certain amount of untreated sewage and storm water into seas and rivers through combined sewage overflow pipes, relying on the companies to tell them how much they are dumping.
It found that in 2019, four out of nine water and sewage companies were rated as poor or requiring improvement, the worst result since 2011.
South West Water, which supplies 1.6million people, has never received above a two-star rating, receiving the same score for last year.
The scale is: four star being an industry leading company, three – good, two – needing improvement and one star being poor.
Meanwhile, Southern Water, which supplies 4.6million customers in Sussex, Kent and Hampshire, only got one star.
Southern Water was also criticised after it paid its chief executive, Ian McAulay, a £538,100 bonus despite its disappointing performance.
South West Water claims it is addressing the problem and suggested it will be making changes to improve its rating.
Ed Mitchell, South West Water’s director of environment, said: ‘We care deeply about the environment and are fully committed to improving our environmental performance, recognising that we are not where we need to be.
‘While we have significantly reduced the most serious pollutions, we know we have much more to do to tackle the overall number of incidents.’
South West Water said it has begun the implementation of a new Pollution Incident Reduction Plan.
This includes establishing a dedicated task force to focus on pollutions and drive improvements, employing more operators to carry out sewer cleansing, pumping station inspections and maintenance and strengthening its incident response capacity.
Mitchell added: ‘We are also investing in improved root cause analysis; developing asset specific plans for treatment works, networks and pumping stations; and doing more to encourage customers to help reduce blockages.
‘When pollutions happen, as well as responding quickly to minimise any impact on the environment, we look very carefully at what caused them and what we can do to prevent them happening again.’