A water services regulatory body is letting down its Welsh customers by not recognising Wales as more than “a super-region”, a watchdog report has claimed.
The report published recently by Consumer Focus suggested Ofwat, which is responsible for holding water companies to account in England and Wales, was neglecting the needs of its Welsh customers.
Although the report praised Ofwat’s regular contact with the Welsh Assembly and the Welsh expertise of one of its board members, it condemned the regulatory body’s lack of projects specifically related to Welsh consumers.
This is the first report to investigate regulators on behalf of consumers, and it assessed six regulators who oversee the food, water, energy, money, communications and postal sectors, and who absorb millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money.
The report stated: “Ofwat has a mixed performance with respect to working in a devolved setting. It appears to follow the lead set by its statutes of treating Wales as a super-region, rather than operating in a way that would allow it to capture and respond to the possible differences in the needs of Welsh consumers.”
It went on to criticise Ofwat’s lack of information available in the Welsh language on their website.
It said: “A serious omission is that, at the time of writing, none of Ofwat’s publications are yet available on its website in the Welsh language. It is important that Ofwat embraces a culture that will deliver a genuinely transnational organisation, rather than one organisation based in England with a policy of outreach to Wales.”
A spokesperson for Ofwat said: “We recognise Consumer Focus’ concerns and are developing a dedicated Welsh section for our website. We are working closely with the Welsh Language Board and have agreed an action plan with them to address the information needs of Welsh consumers.
“We work closely with the Welsh Assembly Government and have strong relationships with water and sewerage companies serving the people of Wales through our company advisers and Board Lead Contacts. This helps ensure that we fully consider the issues affecting consumers across Wales. Our consumer surveys look specifically at the views of Welsh consumers.”
Ofwat is independent of the Government and the water companies, but is accountable to Parliament and the Welsh Assembly Government.
A Welsh Assembly Government spokesman said: “The Welsh Assembly Government regularly meet Ofwat to discuss matters which release to water in Wales. We will discuss the Consumer Focus Study at our next meeting.
“We urge Ofwat to comply with the commitments in its own Welsh language scheme. The Welsh Language Board has the statutory responsibility for approving Welsh language schemes and dealing with non-compliance.”
Photo courtesy of taken by… Aymi at Flickr
This was published in the Cardiff Evening News, Cardiff Journalism School’s training newspaper