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.

Mark McElvanney, StepChange Debt Charity

I joined StepChange Debt Charity in September 2012 as a Relationship Manager, initially working with creditors within financial services and to support the charity’s rebrand (from CCCS) before moving to work with energy and water suppliers.

As a Senior Relationship Manager, I am now responsible for the charity’s engagement with utility suppliers, credit card providers, and short term (payday) and household retail lenders, delivering customer engagement strategies to support vulnerable customers, delivering debt help and solutions to meet their circumstances.

I previously worked within the Financial Services sector for UKAR (UK Asset Resolution) / Northern Rock where I had a number of different roles, most latterly as Debt Advice Policy Manager; and have extensive experience of all aspects of customer service, collections and debt recovery.

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. 

Graham Dale, Consumer Council for Water

I’m the Local Consumer Advocate working for the CCW, who champions consumers’ interests in the company’s Essex & Suffolk Water area. I am also an independent management consultant providing guidance and support to businesses in Risk Assessment, Crisis Planning, Environmental and Quality improvement and Food Safety.

Both roles bring together my experience of many years in business leadership roles, responsible for the management of quality, safety and sustainability and the environment, with my passion for great customer service and protecting the environment for future generations.

My aim for the Water Forum is for it to influence and hold NWG to account; ensuring that:
• customer voices are heard during the development of the next 5-year business plan
• customers are not faced with significant extra financial burden
• plans are put in place to protect and support the most vulnerable in our society; and
• long-term environmental improvements are incorporated. 

Iain Dunnett, New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership

Iain is the lead for the Green Economy and the Growing Places Fund with the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership. In this role he supports the development of a sustainable and commercial future that benefits the many businesses that operate in this dynamic new area of the economy; he also manages other business and funding development opportunities with a wide range of businesses and organisations. Previously he developed a Low Carbon Development Unit at the Suffolk Chamber of Commerce and managed production of the Green Economy Pathfinder and Manifesto on behalf of the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership. This built upon his experience of raising and managing the aspiration and partnership of Creating the Greenest County in Suffolk. Previous to this he enjoyed ten years of environmental, recreational and heritage management project management roles in Suffolk, before taking up the post of External Funding Manager at Suffolk County Council managing European finances and other investments.

Iain’s early career took him from working with the RSPB, the South Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty ,the Cheshire Wildlife Trust, to the USA and the Audubon Society in Massachusetts, Mono Lake Programme in California and Operation Raleigh in Australia.

In addition, Iain has held many voluntary positions in organisations :- Current - Fellow of Suffolk New College, Governor of Ipswich Chantry Academy, Forestry Commission Advisory Committee Member for Eastern Region, Creating the Greenest County Board Member, Wild Anglia Local Nature Partnership Adviser, Green Economy Pathfinder Board Member. Past - Director of Foundation East, Princes Trust Board Member.

My aims with ESW are to :
• To ascertain feedback from sme’s in relation to PR19 and on wider water matters relevant to the Essex and Suffolk Water Forum.
• To network and engage sme’s and increase awareness of water issues within the business community.
• To assist in providing a well engaged network which feeds positively back into the company and wider water initiative.
• To build upon the basis already established by the Water Forum under PR 14 and earlier reviews.
• To help to build a strong link between business and the water industry in a geographical area where business use of water will be a key issue in the future in relation to supply and demand, quality, sustainability and cost.

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

I’m the Regional Director for the CBI in the North East, an area where I was brought up and which I returned to over a decade ago. Roles that I’ve done prior to this include: being an Executive Search Consultant recruiting at senior management, director and non-executive levels; working in sales and marketing roles in the manufacturing, IT and graphic arts sectors in Europe and USA.

I have a keen interest in, and have been actively involved in diversity and developing talent and skills throughout my career and will bring this experience into the Forums’ discussions. I’m involved in a range of groups that support women and their development, specifically in the construction and property sectors. Given my specific passion about providing effective careers advice in schools and colleges, I also chair the Steering Committee for the NELEP′s Gatsby Good Careers national pilot scheme that’s running in the North East.

Steve Grebby, Consumer Council for Water

I began my career in the Water Industry in the early 1990’s with the original consumer representative, Ofwat’s Thames Customer Service Committee. I am now a policy advisor to Consumer Council for Water’s Central and Eastern and Northern Committees working with water companies in the North East and East of England.

I was a member of the Essex and Suffolk Water Forum during the last business plan period. Now living in Newcastle, I am looking forward to representing consumer interests on the Northumbrian Water Forum.

I have worked on a wide range of consumer issues and with more than a dozen water companies. I now lead Consumer Council for Water’s national work on all waste water related issues including sewer flooding, drainage misconnections and misuse of sewers. Drainage issues and the consumer research activities will be the main focus of my work with the forum. 

Robert Light, Consumer Council for Water

I’m currently the Chair of CCW′s Northern Region and have significant experience in local government and public sector bodies, most recently at the Environment Agency, where I was on the Board from 2009 to 2015 and Deputy Chair from 2012 to 2015.

Some of my other roles have been: a councillor on Kirklees Council (1987-95 and 2000-15), and was the Council Leader during that time as well as the first Chair of the Leeds City Region; the Deputy Chair of the Local Government Association (2010-14); on the Board of the Audit Commission (2011-15); and Chair of the West Yorkshire Fire & Rescue service.

Anna Martin, Groundwork

At Groundwork, the environment is the inspiration for all our work, and there’s a strong overlap between the work of the Water Forums and Groundwork’s priorities and very reason for being. Part of our work includes encouraging and empowering people to use less water in areas where there’s high ′water stress’ (less supply than demand) and helping them understand the importance of their actions. This type of behaviour change is what we specialise in, so will help me assure that NWG’s proposed plans for the coming years will achieve their behavior change goals.

I’m the Operations Manager for Groundwork Suffolk and Norfolk, and have 12 years’ experience of designing, developing and providing environmental advice to businesses, communities and schools. I have also done a lot in the areas of European funding, Corporate Social Responsibility and partnership working.

I’m keen to add value wherever I can to the Water Forums’ discussions and activities, and to create bridges between our two organisations, for example to work together on pilot projects and to network with and learn from other organisations and influencers. 

Bhupendra Mistry, Consumer Council for Water

I’ve spent my entire career championing social change within communities that are experiencing isolation and disadvantage, pioneering innovative solutions within volatile regions. I’ve held senior roles within Local and Central Government and the third sector; and my work has focused on the development of a stronger civil society and bringing "new thinking" to conflict resolution areas, both in the UK and overseas. My membership of the Water Forum provides a further opportunity to make a positive difference to those in vulnerable circumstances.
My seminal work includes jointly leading on several studies that reported and helped facilitate the work of the Home Office in the aftermath of the disturbances in northern towns in 2001.

My past Board memberships have included Home Office and Cabinet Office Advisory Boards on Civil Society, Manchester Metropolitan University, Harvest Housing Group, Fabrick Housing Group, BBC World Service Trust, NACRO, Greater Manchester Police Authority, Body Shop Foundation and Carnegie (UK) Trust.

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:

Hannah Campbell, who works across the North East as Team Leader for Terrestrial Biodiversity. 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

As well as being the Essex & Suffolk Water (ESW) Forum Vice-Chair, I have many roles including being Director of the History of Advertising Trust, the world’s largest archive of UK advertising history. I have worked in the natural environment all my life and I was lucky enough to spend 24 years in the RSPB as Reserves Manager and Regional Director, and in June 2005 I was awarded an OBE for my work in the Environment and Sustainability.

This was a time of growth both in RSPB membership and, importantly for me, in the buying of land to recreate many new nature reserves. I oversaw the creation of thousands of hectares of different habitats, my favourite being Lakenheath Fen, which was one of the most exciting projects of its time. Ironically, ESW pipelines run under the reserve to Essex.

I have always worked in roles where water is fundamental to environmental success, people/consumers, economics, or just important as a sustainable commodity. Working with Northumbrian Water Group is exciting because they really do understand their customers, the environment and sustainability as well as being a business.

My aims for the group are three-fold:

• To make sure customers’ voices are heard and not too much burden is placed upon them
• That sustainability, climate change and the environment are taken in all that NWG do, because this will continue to make it stand out from the others
• To ensure big picture and longer-term influences and planning override short-term gain; and that the different environmental challenges the company has with the water rich North and the droughts in Essex are balanced in its long-term plans
To achieve this I will give as much advice as I am able, and connect with a network of people to enhance that advice, all the time remaining curious and asking questions. 

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, Money Advice Service (MAS)

I am Policy Manager for the Money Advice Service (MAS), helping to lead the organisation’s work on saving, budgeting and managing money well day to day. I have authored numerous reports on consumer issues and in previous roles led successful campaigns on issues such as problem debt and nuisance calls.

I sit on several consumer panels and have been invited to speak to national organisations on the subject of savings, consumer credit and debt, including the British Banker’s Association and the Council of Mortgage Lenders.

MAS is a UK-wide, independent organisation set up by government to improve people’s ability to manage their financial affairs. Its free and impartial money advice is available online and by phone or webchat. 

Caroline Taylor, Essex Community Foundation

As the Chief Executive of Essex Community Foundation I see first-hand the challenges that many people in our communities face such as rural isolation homelessness, drug and alcohol misuse. I also see how communities organise themselves to help each other. There are 10,000 voluntary and community organisations in Essex and most of them are run entirely by volunteers with small levels of income. They do amazing work and I am a passionate advocate for all that they achieve. My role with the Forum is to amplify their voice and bring their experience to the fore which will help the water company see things from the perspective of their customers. 

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