Assessment of the Costs and Benefits arising from Government and Water Industry Participation in the Development of European Standards
November 2005

Executive Summary

Defra (DWI) commissioned this study to examine the effectiveness and benefits of participation in the European standards process and specifically to:
  1. Assess whether water industry representation is achieving value for money;
  2. Consider if the current level of effort and resource use is appropriate; and
  3. Review how the effectiveness of UK participation might be improved.
The study included a survey of Water UK standards representatives and six in-depth case studies.

Survey of representatives

The survey was based on telephone interviews with 20 Water UK standards representatives (i.e. 50% of the sample frame of representatives active in the last 5 years). It covered all champion areas and included representatives working at European technical committee level and those involved in the UK process.

The survey highlighted the importance of involvement in the drafting stages of standard development. This is seen as the most effective means of ensuring UK interests are incorporated in the draft standard. However, other stages such as public enquiry and final vote were considered important either to maintain the UK position or if the UK had not been involved in drafting the standard to try to effect a later change.

Representatives generally reported that their activities had achieved the outcome desired. However, this may have been influenced by the interviewee’s selection of a standard preferred, or better remembered, due to its positive outcome.

The main factors identified as leading to poor standard outcomes, where these were not fully achieved, were dominance by a specific country or sector interest, poor country presence with too few representatives and poor CEN meeting management.

Case studies

Six case studies were selected across a range of topic areas, three representing good outcomes and three representing poor outcomes. Although each case study impacted on the water industry, not all had been the subject of water industry representation.

The case studies illustrated a huge variation in the benefit cost ratio or potential benefit cost ratio (in the cases of those without representation). The minimum (potential) return gave a benefit to cost ratio of £1.27 / £1 expended. These are conservative estimates based on ex post outcomes as opposed to less certain ex ante analysis which could, by identifying more potential risks, overestimatethe potential benefits.

The case studies and in-depth discussions clearly illustrated that the key to a successful outcome related to very early involvement and taking ownership and leadership in the development of the draft, ideally having a suitable UK standard to offer up. This is likely to become even more important in view of the recently expanded EU membership.

The effectiveness of representation was reduced by limited time input and in particular by other more dominant interests either in terms of numbers of participants from a particular country or countries, or across areas by sector.

Resource use

It is estimated that approximately £355,000 per annum is expended on Standards Group work by Water UK and the water companies. This does not include other company initiatives undertaken outside of the Group. The work programme of water-related BSi committees and sub committees covers 1986 standards over a 5 year cycle. These include new standards in development, revisions of existing standards and review of existing standards.

Many representatives believe that there is a need for additional resourcing. This is backed up by a simplified resourcing model which suggests that there may be a shortfall of the order of 62 representative days per year.

Of the 27 principal BSi water-related committees, 25% do not have a Water UK contact assigned. In some cases, the contact is only a named person to receive meeting minutes who does not attend meetings. It has been suggested that the minutes record the outcomes and decisions of the meeting but do not capture the issues and their subtleties and sensitivities, crucial to the decision on further levels of representation. The cost of representation on a committee is approximately £1000 to £2800/year (2 days x cost of water company representative or consultant) but could potentially improve the ability to “horizon scan” for the water industry.

Improved effectiveness

Based on the survey and case studies, opportunities to maintain and improve the representation process include:
It is important to increase the interest in representation and recruitment of representatives to maintain and develop the resources needed as a number of representatives are approaching retirement. If this does not occur there is a significant threat to the long term viability of the group and the effectiveness of its work.

To develop the work of the standards group, raise its profile and strengthen its longer term
sustainability requires additional funding and resources specifically dedicated to performance
measurement and publicising the work of the group and making and raising the profile of standards work. DTI funding possibilities could be explored.

Copies of this report may be available as an Acrobat pdf download under the 'Find Completed Research' heading on the DWI website.