YourVoice – Independent Challenge Group

Terms of Reference & Membership

  1. Requirement and Role

    1.1. YourVoice, the Independent Challenge Group for North West water customers and stakeholders, provides independent scrutiny, advice and challenge in relation to United Utilities’ customer engagement and research activities. 

    1.2. YourVoice membership is intended to provide a balance of customer, business, social, environmental and regulatory representatives, and will be regularly reviewed to ensure the right blend of expertise and experience.  

    1.3. The YourVoice panel will review and challenge United Utilities’ business plan formulation, engagement and delivery as well as reviewing and assuring its customer reporting. It will consider, review and challenge the company’s customer research and engagement, and its PR24 business plan submission to Ofwat. 

    1.4. The role of the panel is to be a ‘critical friend’ to United Utilities, understanding challenges, commenting on plans and expressing views about the key issues and priorities.  

    1.5. The panel will be presented with detailed information about how United Utilities operates and its proposed investment plans, but members are not expected to be experts in water, engineering or business issues such as finance and economics. 

    1.6. To support its work, and enable more detailed scrutiny of important work areas, YourVoice has established four sub-groups focusing on customer engagement & research; the environment, natural capital & social capital agenda; seeking the views of regional stakeholders; and looking at customer vulnerability and affordability. The Chair of YourVoice will be a member of each of the sub groups. 

    1.7. The YourVoice chair will have access to the UU Board and will attend one of its meetings at least annually.  
  1. Terms of Reference 

    On the delivery of the 2020-25 Business Plan (AMP7), the panel will:

    2.1. review progress against the company’s 2020-2025 business plan performance commitments, including contractual over- and under-performance payments, and to advise and challenge the company on the delivery of its plan. 

    2.2. advise and challenge United Utilities on how to deal with the financial impact of over- or under-performance against outcome commitments, providing external input if the company’s CommUnity share mechanism is triggered. 

    2.3. advise on the timing and sharing of costs with customers of new obligations arising outside the 2020-25 business plan. 

    2.4. review and challenge the company’s customer engagement and research activities, including ongoing customer research and education. 

    2.5. review and challenge the company’s annual reporting of progress against its 2020-25 business plan commitments and targets. 

    2.6. advise on the design and presentation of annual performance reports (content and format), looking at United Utilities’ progress in delivering 2020-25 business plan commitments, ensuring that clear, accurate and concise information is provided to the company’s customers and stakeholders. 

    2.7. advise on ways of communicating with customers, including the annual communication to customers included with customer bills.  

    2.8. review how the company’s performance compares with other companies in the water sector and more widely. 

    2.9. provide a forum for engagement concerning plans for business development that may impact on customers – for example, the application of systems thinking approaches and proposals for national and regional water transfers. 

    2.10. review how each of the four sub groups is operating and provide the company’s management team with stakeholder insight from across the four groups. 

    2.11. provide a strategic assessment to the company’s management on North West stakeholder issues, priorities and opportunities, 

    On preparations for the PR24 Price Review process (2025 – 2030), the panel will: 

    2.12. advise and challenge the company on the quality, clarity and scope of the company’s customer engagement and research activities to support the development of the PR24 business plan, including ensuring a robust, balanced and proportionate evidence base. 

    2.13. ensure the company has engaged with different types of existing customers whilst also considering the impact on future customers. 

    2.14. ensure the company provides a range of genuine, understandable and realistic options to customers on PR24 business plan proposals and how the outcomes and customers views on this are included in the Business Plan. 

    2.15. review the outcomes from centrally co-ordinated research in the context of the North West of England and ensure it is triangulated against other local customer engagement and research work. 

    2.16. work with statutory regulators (such as the Drinking Water Inspectorate (DWI) and Environment Agency (EA)) so that they can contribute to the YourVoice process in the most effective way. 

    2.17. provide customers and Ofwat with assurance on the quality and effectiveness of customer and stakeholder engagement and research if required, and the extent to which this has been reflected in UU’s business plan proposals.Page Break 
  1. Governance and membership 

    3.1. YourVoice has an independent Chair, selected following an open, transparent and rigorous recruitment process and who will work independently of United Utilities in determining the work and approach of the panel.  The Chair will be supported by an independent Secretary who will provide administrative support in preparing meeting agendas, papers and minutes. 

    3.2. The panel will meet quarterly but with more frequent meetings likely in the later stages of the PR24 business planning process. Agenda and meeting minutes will be made available on the YourVoice web pages. 

    3.3. YourVoice will be quorate if the Chair is present, plus at least 4 other members. 

    3.4. The Chair will be invited to attend United Utilities’ Board Meeting at least annually to report on inter alia the YourVoice panel’s view of company performance, customer engagement and progress. 

    3.5. Meeting papers will normally be circulated to members at least 7 days in advance of meetings. 

    3.6. Members will meet in private session at each meeting to discuss and debate issues, where the panel deems this necessary. 

    3.7. Sub-groups have been established to look in more detail at (i) customer engagement and research (ii) environmental/social value aspects of the company’s activities (iii) Stakeholder views, and iv) Affordability and Vulnerability. The activities of sub-groups will be reviewed and co-ordinated at the YourVoice panel meetings. Terms of reference will be agreed for each sub-group.  

    3.8. Appropriate induction and training will be provided to panel members and detailed briefing made available on any new policy introductions, consultations or changes. 

    3.9. Members will declare any interests they may have at least annually and if applicable at meetings of YourVoice and its sub groups 

    3.10. The YourVoice Chair will participate in meetings of ICG Chairs organised by CCW and Ofwat, to provide feedback and views and to share good practice.    

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