An Agenda for a meeting with [or within] the Water Industry

Introductory Notes

There are few prerequisites before you can have a meeting:

  1. You need an agenda with specific simple items clearly expressed.
  2. You need people with whom you can have a meaningful discussion:
    1. There has to be a will to discuss all the matters which are on the agenda.
    2. This means that they must have detailed knowledge of the topics in the agenda.
    3. It also means that they must have adequate authority after the meeting to "make things happen".One of biggest problems is that "senior people" in any state organisation will be mostly "too busy" to meet with mere citizens even though those citizens may well be better educated [having degrees etc], have had more experience either in industry, a profession, or indeed in government as a civil servant.

Thus locating the people with whom you can have a meeting is in itself a major task.

One immediately thinks that the Water Industry Commission for Scotland [WICS] would be the right people to talk to. However a quick visit to their web site and an examination of their remit reveals otherwise. The relevant page on their web site states: 

Performance in delivering the outputs is monitored jointly by the Output Monitoring Group, which comprises representatives from the Drinking Water Quality Regulator, Scottish Environment Protection Agency, Citizens Advice Scotland, Scottish Water, the Scottish Government (on behalf of Scottish Ministers) and WICS. 

We are not after their performance: we want to know who monitors the Scottish Water Revenue Protection Team and their ability to satisfactorily determine whether a leased premises is an "eligible premises" in terms of the 2005 Act - see the article on the Law for more information. This is the first major item on the agenda [Section 1, Item a], and already there ia a problem in finding what Scottish Water terms "the right team".

The second major item relates to Drainage Charges. To put it mildly the law is unclear. [Section 1, Item b, iii].

It has been observed that there is a an apparent communication failure within certain large organisations which seems to prohibit the ability of even senior people to meet the requirements expressed above.

Not only Accountability Scotland, but also people like John Seddon of Vanguard Consulting, who are experts in working out why there are massive communication failures in what in a genuine [as opposed to one privatised by the state] private company is simply not possible. It also seems that it applies to many government organisations. These large organisations get themselves into a state of paralysis when presented with an alternative, correction, or improvement to what they are doing. This is commonly known as "Not Invented Here" syndrome.

When a state body is turned into a private limited company owned by the state, the senior people suddenly think that they are in a successful public company. They are NOT: They are still in a state run body of civil servants. Often some Directors who have been directors in PLC's are brought in - but these people are immediately out of their depth never having had to sort out what is effectively not sortable.

Professor John Seddon has made many relevant comments in his book "System Thinking in the Public Sector" [ISBN 978-0-9550081-8-4] 2008, where he introduces the concept of "failure demand". This is about unnecessary work that has to be done handling complaints that, if "the system worked", would not be made. He comments on page 178:

The failure of xxxxxxxx processing drives enormous volumes of failure demand into xxxxxxxxx and legal services. It must be costing in the order of hundreds of millions of pounds, quite apart from the price in human and social terms. I have explained the problem to every civil servant and minister I have met over the last two years. Nothing has been done. No one can act. No one is responsible. Incapacity to act is a feature of the system.

This applies exactly to small business's who are bullied into paying "taxes" by the Scottish Water due to mistakes in classification of premises as "Eligible Premises".

The Proposed Agenda

1) On the Law

Elucidation on what the law is [as has been found from the recent case of Scottish Water Business Stream -v- A N Other Ltd in Glasgow Sheriff court]. It appears there are two elements:

  1. Definition of Eligible Premises: It requires a direct connection either to a Scottish Water supply pipe or a Scottish Water sewer as a basic requirement - see the 2005 act.
  2. Definition of charging basis for Water and Sewerage. The Ministerial Direction is for charging on volume thus:
    1. Remove rateable value charging which brings in grossly excessive revenue
    2. Remove fixed charges
    3. IF there is a [Foul or Storm] sewerage connection, then
      1. There is a property drainage [storm water run off] charge - unless there is soak-away or other mechanism - like roof storage and evaporation
      2. There is a roads drainage element.

Noted that many organisations find it cheaper to pay an "apparently illegal" tax than to contest it: "Taxation by Terror [of being sued]".

2) Commercial Matters

Who is going to reimburse the small businesses and organisations falsely invoiced and possibly taken to court for monies paid and costs, viz:

  • Court Fees
  • Lawyers costs - including Counsel's Opinion
  • Costs arising from disruption to business incurred whilst the owners battle with the stress and subsequent problems.

3) About Systemic Failures

  1. Bullying and Corrupt practice
    1. The Behaviour of Scottish Water Business Stream in raising invoices and pursuing them [telephone and email harassment]
    2. The Gap Analysis process undertaken by Scottish Water's Revenue Protection Team, and how the persons involved in that are remunerated [bonus on discovery which leads to wrongful classification as an Eligible Premises]
    3. The similar bullying tactics used by Brodie's Sheriff's Officer department, and a member of their legal team [to be reported to the Solicitor's Complaints Authority].
  2. Operation of the Water Commission for Scotland with respect to CMA Scotland's Market Code
    1. Who has approved the code ?
    2. Why is the definition of eligible premises different to that contained in the 2005 act ?
    3. Who is going to ensure it is rectified ?
      1. Who is going take responsibility for this ? 
      2. What disciplinary action will be taken ?

4) On Political Activities

  1. Collusion 
    That the Water Commissioner for Scotland's office in placing FAQs no 2 and no 9 on the Scotland on Tap web site, for which there is no specific Ministerial Direction, are colluding rather than regulating.
  2. Coercion
    Scottish Water Business Stream have apparently had meetings with the Citizens Advice Bureau [Gail Walker] and the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations [Felix Spittal].
  3. Reality
    The Privatisation is of Revenue Collection NOT of the supply of water nor the collection of sewerage. All that is happening is that larger companies can get cheaper water as the cost of collection of revenue is reduced. Whose responsibility is it to retain Scottish Money in Scotland ?