Water Forums

Who are we?

Who are we?

Jim Dixon, Independent Chair of the Water Forums

My motivation for taking on this role as Chair of the Water Forums is to create dialogue that helps make sure the voices of water and sewerage customers are heard by NWG. We are the advocates of the company’s diverse customers – not there to make decisions, but to ensure that the reality of these customers’ lives is reflected in the decisions that the Board takes.

I want the Forums to challenge the company to be as good as they can possibly be at engaging with and responding to customer views. This means making sure that its decisions can be tracked back to an understanding of what customers think, want and will benefit from.

My 35-year career in countryside and heritage management and public administration will certainly help me to do this; I will draw on all of this experience to chair the Water Forums and their wonderfully diverse membership.

Outside this work, I spend my time pursuing my business interests, which include writing a monthly column on nature and landscapes for The Times. I live in Derbyshire, the county where for 12 years until 2014 I was Chief Executive of the Peak District National Park Authority.

Melanie Laws, Independent Member and Vice-Chair of the Water Forum

As an independent member, I bring with me many years’ experience of working in local government, both with the business sector and on behalf of the communities that local authorities serve.

I am a former Chief Executive with the Association of North East Councils, which represented local government across this region. I have also worked with national government, a range of regulatory bodies, and the voluntary and community sector (VCS).

This experience has helped me develop a deep and broad understanding of the economic, social and environmental issues affecting the North East and the country as a whole.

Originally from Lincolnshire, I have lived and worked in the North East for 38 years and have raised my family here. I am deeply passionate about the region and believe it has a very bright future. By taking part in the Water Forum, I hope to provide useful challenge on a range of issues impacting on NWG’s plans and policies. I also have experience of previous customer challenge group (CCG) arrangements, which the Water Forums can learn from to make them as effective as possible. 

Chris Barnard, Ouseburn Trust

In my role of Chief Officer of this exciting community development trust in the Ouseburn Valley, I talk every day to individuals, volunteer organisations and businesses about the economic, environmental and social regeneration of our area. This community engagement work gives me a unique insight into people’s perceptions about what NWG does and should do, and it is these insights that I then use in the discussions and debates at the Water Forum.

Practically speaking, I consider how NWG’s plans will affect river water quality, the local environment and customer service – which is especially important now that business customers can choose their water supplier. I believe that my broad non-water industry experience is a valuable complement to the deep, specialist knowledge of the statutory members on the Forum. I also find that I can put the NWG team in touch with people in my network of contacts who may be able to add a different, useful dimension as they develop areas of their work. 

James Copeland, National Farmers Union (NFU)

I’m the north-east region’s Environment & Land Use Adviser at the NFU, where I’ve worked since 2009, and a farmer’s son from East Yorkshire. I bring to the Water Forums a passion for ensuring that agricultural businesses can develop and grow because the landscape allows them to do so. 

The NFU is a statutory member of the Water Forum and I believe that my current job and my network of contacts means I can provide useful challenge to NWG’s plans and strategies, in particular contributing an agricultural perspective to the environmental debates.

Mary Coyle MBE DL, Independent Member

I have a genuine interest in absolutely everything that impacts the society we live in, which has led me to get involved the Water Forums since 2010, as well as many different community organisations. At the moment I’m a trustee of several local and regional charities, a non-Exec Director of Gentoo (a Sunderland-based housing association), the Lay Chair of the North Tyneside NHS Clinical Commissioning Group, Chair of Shared Interest and a Deputy Lieutenant for Tyne & Wear.

My 30 years’ community and voluntary sector experience in the North East mean I’m well-networked in the public, private and voluntary sectors, and I find opportunities to bring the three together so they can learn from each other and innovate.

I believe that the value I bring to the Forum’s work is my broad experience and my naturally curious nature – together, these permit me to ask the ‘have you thought about...’ questions from a different perspective to some of my colleagues, so that together we offer a well-rounded challenge to NWG. I particularly challenge from the point of view of customers who have a limited income or who perhaps struggle to engage with the company due to ill-health or learning disabilities; I also think about what NWG’s plans mean for sustainable water supplies, flooding and water quality – all of which directly affect customers. 

Lesley Crisp, Citizens Advice Havering

One of the twin aspects of Citizen’s Advice work is to research and campaign on big issues where vulnerable people need their voices to be heard. As the Chief Officer in Havering, Essex, I’m pleased to have the opportunity to challenge Northumbrian Water Group about its plans that will impact its customers. I offer a perspective that is based on what I hear from our clients here at Citizen’s Advice and from my network of contacts in volunteer organisations and local authorities. I’ve built this network up over the years, working and volunteering in jobs such as benefit assessment, a local hospital information service and an adult literacy scheme.

Through my work with the Forums, Essex & Suffolk Water have visited my team to explain what the company can do to help our clients, who come from a very diverse community in terms of their needs. It’s this diversity that I’m very keen to make sure the company understand, so that their needs are represented in its decision-making. 


Bernard Crump, Consumer Council for Water

I’ve spent the last 37 years since qualifying as a doctor working in a wide range of roles, all with one thing in common: the desire to improve people’s health. Excellent water and wastewater services are essentials for healthy life, so I was delighted five years ago to be appointed as one of the Regional Chairs of the Consumer Council for Water. Our task is to hold water companies to account by representing all their customers, both in their day-to-day dealings with companies if they have a problem that cannot be resolved, and through more strategic engagement, such as my involvement in the Water Forum.

Within CCWater I am responsible for the Central and Eastern Region, which includes Essex & Suffolk Water. I also have Board oversight of all our work on research and regulation, both of which are crucial to the work of the Forum.

Jo Curry, Changing Lives
  As Executive Director of the national charity Changing Lives, I offer constructive challenge to NWG’s plans from the perspective of homeless and socially-excluded people within our society. I am passionate about ensuring the voices of vulnerable customers and their families are heard, and that their needs are represented and understood when companies make decisions. Being a member of the Water Forum affords me an important opportunity to do this. I draw on the views of my network of contacts built over the course of my career, including through my previous job as CEO of Voluntary Organisations′ Network North East (VONNE) and my role as Trustee of the Virgin Money Foundation. 

Iain Dunnett, New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership


Environment Agency

The EA, whose mission is to ‘work to create better places for people and wildlife, and support sustainable development’, is one of the statutory members of all water companies’ customer challenge groups (CCGs).

We use the opportunity of working with the Water Forums to review and challenge the company’s next five-year plan so that it achieves the best possible outcomes for both customers and the environment that they live and work in.

At the moment, the EA team members who work with the Water Forums are:

John Giles, River Basin Account Manager. He is also a member of the Anglian Water Customer Engagement Forum and the South Staffs/Cambridge Water Customer Panel.

Melissa Lockwood, River Basin Account Manager. She is also a member of the Yorkshire Forum for Water Customers.

Fiona Morris, coordinator for PR19 activities.

As well as taking part in the Water Forums, the EA works day-to-day with NWG to help it protect the environment and supply water to its customers in a sustainable way. You can read more about what the EA does on the gov.uk website.

Sarah Glendinning, Confederation of British Industry



Steve Grebby, Consumer Council for Water


Robert Leng, Independent Member


Robert Light, Consumer Council for Water


Anna Martin, Groundwork


Natural England

At Natural England, we seek to ensure that the natural environment is managed for the benefit of present and future generations, and are the Government’s adviser for the country’s natural environment. This is why we are a statutory member of the Water Forums.

The supply of water and sewerage services can affect the environment in many ways, for example: discharges affecting water quality; abstraction from surface and ground waters; and how land and other assets are managed.

At the moment, the Natural England team members who work with the Water Forums are:

Karen Purvis, who works across the North East as Senior Adviser for Catchment Sensitive Farming and Water. Her focus is working with Northumbrian Water.

John Torlesse, Manager in our West Anglia Team, is working with Essex & Suffolk Water.

By participating in the activities and discussions with the Water Forums we can work with other stakeholders towards agreement about how NWG can contribute to the natural environment, whilst meeting the needs of its customers.

Richard Powell, Independent Member


Professor Mark Reed, Newcastle University

I am Professor of Socio-Technical Innovation and Director of Engagement & Impact in the School of Agriculture, Food & Rural Developent. I am also Research Lead for the UK Peatland Programme, which is run by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Over the past few years I’m proud to have been commissioned to write reports and present findings to UN bodies, acted as a scientific advisor to the BBC and have my work covered by the Guardian, Radio 4, Radio Scotland and international media.

Along with other roles, research and publications that I’ve been involved in (you can read more atprofmarkreed.com/biography), this experience allows me to add real value to debates about NWG’s impact on the environment. For example, I have worked with water companies that draw water from peatland catchments, and through my membership of the Water Forum I am challenging NWG to manage its catchments in ways that increase the value of nature to our society, for example by quantifying the climate change, wildlife and cultural benefits of its land management.

As a social scientist, I give NWG access to cutting edge methods for assessing the costs and benefits of decisions relating to the natural environment. I also help the company to find new and better ways of engaging with its customers and other stakeholders to inform its work. This drawn on the work I do at fasttrackimpact.com, where we train researchers in how to embed impact into their research. 

Joseph Surtees, StepChange Debt Charity
Caroline Taylor, Essex Community Foundation


Colin Wilkinson, Consumer Council for Water


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