Express & Star comment: Severn Trent's investment to improve supply must be applauded

Huge plans to invest in the region’s water supply are a breath of fresh air. Severn Trent wants to revolutionise the way it supplies our water and the hundreds of millions that it spends will speed up the region’s bounce back from Covid-19. As a further 2,500 employees join the payroll, we can look forward to the company changing the way it operates so that it can improve water supply, expedite the green recovery and improve the quality of our rivers.

Severn Trent CEO Liv Garfield, whose company's green recovery plans include encouraging wild swimming and installing smart metres
Severn Trent CEO Liv Garfield, whose company's green recovery plans include encouraging wild swimming and installing smart metres

The system of harnessing Mother Nature’s water supply and providing that life force into people’s homes is immense. We should not underestimate the work involved nor the size of the task. There are many parts of the world that are not so fortunate, where people do not have immediate access to 24-hour drinking water, where sanitation is inadequate or where there is no money nor political will to protect the environment. And so, for all of the faults that utility companies are criticised for, we start from a position of strength, which we must not take for granted.

Yet it is quite clear that we can do things better and that we can embrace more fully the environmental revolution that may be one of the drivers of our economic recovery was we navigate our way out of Covid. Now is a time to reset, to do more to utilise green technologies and to reshape the way our economy is run.

Severn Trent should be at the heart of that in this region by the very nature of the field in which it operates. And so we must welcome its plans to be far-sighted and to look at ways in which it can improve the way it operates. Investing money on better systems, employing more staff at a time when so many have lost their jobs and reshaping the future is good news.

The company will continue to be held to account, of course, as a steely focus is maintained on other priorities, not least the need to repair leaks that waste millions of gallons each year. Yet now is a time for admiring the company’s ambition as it looks to invest hard cash into providing better services in a greener, cleaner way. This is a step forward for the region.

The Government is facing some tough choices. Having persuaded the country to bite the bullet and suffer lockdown measures until now, we are in the grip of a further wave of infections. It is small at present, though the vaccine hesitancy of a small cohort threatens to undermine the progress that has been made.

As we see heart-warming scenes of people returning to work, opening hospitality businesses and shaking off the shackles we must remember that there is still more to be done. Those from all communities and all walks of life must commit to the vaccine to protect not only themselves but others in their wider communities. They might not like the Government, they might resent the jab – but it is saving lives day after day, hour after hour, minute after minute. To avoid the jab is to place others in jeopardy.

Businesses have been starved of income for a long time. We must take personal responsibility to ensure the safety of ourselves and our loved ones. We are in a much better position today than at the start of the pandemic or at any point in the second wave. But we must remain on our guard at all times.

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