Water industry pledges support for supply chain

The importance of the water industry supplier community, and the steps being taken to protect it during the Covid-19 pandemic, were under discussion at British Water’s weekly video conference with members.

The Better Together meetings, hosted by chief executive, Lila Thompson, are providing support to British Water members during the crisis. Some 65 participants at the meeting on 3 April heard from South West Water chief executive and British Water chair Chris Loughlin, Ofwat chief executive Rachel Fletcher, the Environment Agency’s Toby Willison, and Water UK’s Sam Larson, as well as other senior leaders from the industry and supply chain.

Speaking from a utility perspective, Loughlin said: “Looking after and protecting the supply chain is one of our top priorities. We absolutely, essentially, need the supply chain to be there when we come out of this. We need to protect the skills and expertise that are integral to the industry’s whole delivery mechanism.”

He added that steps were already being taken by water companies to put in place a framework for payments to suppliers to support them. “We’re trying to develop a protocol, some principles, on how well we maintain cashflows going to the supply chain. This is absolutely in our minds.”

Other issues discussed on the call included:

  • Ofwat’s understanding of the need for water companies to rethink spending priorities in light of the crisis
  • The regulator’s pride in how the industry has stepped forward to support vulnerable customers and those who will struggle to pay their bills
  • What individual companies are doing to support employees, customers and the communities they serve
  • The importance of communication between water companies and the supply chain, based on openness, transparency and collaborative working
  • The need to applaud the supply community for keeping our assets maintained and operated, along with other key workers
  • How the industry is maintaining the momentum of important projects, and how to progress those that are currently on hold

Thompson said: “British Water recognises that its members, partners and stakeholders are having to make difficult decisions at this time. We want to assure you that we are proactively taking steps to support your businesses in a number of ways, including our Friday video calls with senior leaders on the impact of Covid-19 on the sector.

“We are seeing an increase in numbers joining the calls and I am receiving great feedback. I would encourage all members to join us so they can voice their concerns and hear valuable insight, advice and guidance from industry peers.”

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