Ofwat apologises for offence caused by Covid-19 social purpose blog

Ofwat chief executive Rachel Fletcher last week apologised to water companies for any offence caused by her blog on the opportunity Covid-19 offers to demonstrate social purpose.

In letters to company chief executives, Fletcher admitted the blog “did not land as I intended” – particularly that some field workers and call centre staff had seen the blog as a criticism of them. Fletcher said the blog was amended immediately concerns were raised, and that she hoped the letters and other communications “have removed any doubt over the admiration I have for their work and the public service ethos people in the industry bring to work every day”. She explained that her intention was to support the industry through the crisis, and help the industry restore legitimacy.

The blog provoked widespread ill feeling in the sector for being insensitive to, and unappreciative of, the challenges companies and their staff are facing, and the steps they are already voluntarily taking to support customers and communities through the crisis. For example, while acknowledging a number of “early encouraging signs,” it challenged water companies to “prove whose side they’re on” and “show in actions rather than fine words that the interests of customers and wider society sit at the heart of the business and the decisions they’re making at this time”.

The blog was quickly taken down, edited and reposted by Ofwat. The revised version acknowledged among other points that: “Many water companies see the Covid-19 pandemic as an opportunity to make a material and positive contribution to society like never before.”

In her letters, Fletcher also thanked the CEOs and their teams for their hard work, commitment and achievements in the pandemic so far.