Introducing the Customer Panel

Established in April 2015, the Customer Panel was set up to monitor our performance against the outcomes agreed in our Business Plan and engage with us while challenging other business-as-usual activities.

Panel members include:

Roger Darlington:

Independent Chair of the Customer Panel

Roger Darlington was Chair of the South East Water Customer Challenge Group from 2012-2015 and, since April 2015, has chaired the company's new Customer Panel.

He has wide-ranging chairing experience and currently chairs Ofcom's Consumer Forum for Communications and the Consumer Futures Post Offices Advisory Group. He also has deep experience of speaking for consumers in regulated industries having served on the governing bodies of organisations such as Consumer Focus, the Communications Consumer Panel, Postwatch, and the Internet Watch Foundation.

Before becoming a portfolio worker in the consumer sector, Roger spent 24 years as a national official with the Communication Workers Union, spending the last seven years as Head of Research. Before that, he served in Westminster and Whitehall which has given him a good insight into public policy. He has a First Class Honours degree in Management Sciences from the (then) University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology.

Penny Shepherd MBE:

Local Consumer Advocate, Consumer Council for Water

Penny champions the interests of water consumers as the Local Consumer Advocate on the London and South East Committee of the Consumer Council for Water with particular responsibility for South East Water.

In addition to this role, her portfolio of interests includes chairing the external sustainability panel of a major building materials company and as trustee and investment committee chair for the Big Lottery-funded "Big Local" community development programme. She is also a carer and is involved with various initiatives supporting sustainable living in East Kent.

She has a background in corporate responsibility and sustainability, including as Chief Executive of London Sustainability Exchange and the UK Sustainable Investment and Finance Association.

Angela Dacombe:

AgeUK Representative

Angela has worked for Age UK Maidstone for almost eight years, with the last three years being the specialist Information, Advice and Advocacy Manager offering Welfare Benefits advice. Prior to this her background stems from general insurance as an Insurance Administrator and Underwriter. She has worked for several small Insurance brokers and a few large ones, including Swinton Insurance and Royal and Sun Alliance. 

Angela has a Diploma in Information, Advice and Guidance and is due to commence a Diploma in Advocacy. She is a Trustee for DAVSS (Domestic Abuse Volunteer Support Services based in Tunbridge Wells) and is also a Volunteer helper at a local Girls Brigade unit.

Janet Hill:

Climate Change Officer, Swale Borough Council

Janet’s council role sees her taking responsibility for all matters relating to climate change and embedding it within council policy. She regularly advises officers and members on government policy, and is a key member of the Kent Climate Change Network.

Janet has previously worked for CPRE Kent and the Kentish Stour Countryside project. She also worked with VSO and Save the Children in Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania.

Likewise, before joining South East Water’s independent Customer Challenge Group, Janet was a member of the London and South East Committee of the Consumer Council for Water.

Karen Gibbs:

Senior Policy Manager, Consumer Council for Water

Karen leads the Consumer Council for Water's Environmental Policy Team and is the Regional Manager for London and the South East (working with the six water companies operating in the region including South East Water. Areas of particular interest include water resources planning, demand management and water efficiency, metering and drought management. Karen has worked in consumer representation within the water sector since 1993.

Adrienne Margolis:

South East Water customer

Adrienne Margolis is a freelance journalist and consultant. She is founder and editor of Lawyers for Better Business, a website and global network to keep lawyers one step ahead of developments in business and human rights.  She has a wealth of writing and project management experience, currently a senior advisor to Tax Justice Network and a member of the UK Equality and Human Rights Commission Business and Human Rights Working Group.

Adrienne has launched and edited magazines for the Financial Times, Thomson Reuter, UBS and several trade unions. She has written on business, finance and corporate responsibility for international publications and advised blue chip companies, industry groups, government departments, local authorities and NGOs on communications strategies.

David Howarth

Environment Agency

David has over 30 years experience in the water industry. He worked at United Utilities in operational management before joining the Environment Agency in 1994. His career there has spanned demand management, water resources and environmental planning. 

David has worked as South East Regional Drought Manager (twice), and is currently the River Basin Account Manager for the Thames and South East River Basins.

Caroline Farquhar:

South East Water customer

Caroline has a particular interest in consumer matters, especially those affecting the more vulnerable in the community, through her previous work at the Citizen Advice Bureau. She started as a volunteer with Citizens Advice in North & West Kent in 2006 and later become a staff member working in a number of roles in her nine years with the Bureau; as a debt and benefits advisor, running the South East Consumer Empowerment Partnership, and as part of the management team. 

Prior to joining the Citizens Advice service, Caroline spent ten years in the investment banking industry in London, in internal audit and control functions, and as a Credit Officer. Caroline has a law degree and an MBA.

Caroline served on the Customer Challenge Group during the price review process prior to joining the Customer Panel.

Richard Lavender:

Director, Kent Invicta Chamber of Commerce

I joined the Royal Air Force in 1957 as an Aircraft Engineer, served for twenty five years in many theatres across the globe before retiring to join the family construction business as its Financial Director. After eleven successful years with the company I decided the excitement, challenge and opportunity of the newly formed Eurotunnel Group was too much to resist.

Hence in 1993 I joined Eurotunnel in the Train Crew Department, followed by positions in the Rail Control Centre, and then served as the Folkestone Terminal Manager before becoming the property and Facilities Manager UK and finally becoming Director of Property Services in UK and France.

Retiring at the age of 65 seemed a waste so started my own Property & Safety Consultancy and remained an active Non-Executive Director of the Kent Invicta Chamber of Commerce and spent the last seven years introducing Young Chamber into schools across Kent hoping to improve employability skills for school leavers.

At present I also serve as Chair to the Chambers North Kent Economic Development Group.

My interests are my grandchildren living in Wales and Australia, living life to the full and making the most of every day.

Veronica McGannon:

Household customer representative

Veronica McGannon is a retired mother of two and grandmother of six. For most of her working life, she has been devoted to the caring profession, although for the 10 years leading up to her retirement she owned and ran her own sandwich bar.

Since retiring, Veronica has been involved in several community projects and has won three awards for her work. A devout Arsenal fan, she also volunteers for the supporters club, catering for thousands of hungry fans on match days.

Ben Roome:

Household customer representative

Ben Roome is a household customer of South East Water. He lives in Tunbridge Wells with his wife and two children. Ben is also serves as a governor for a Kent primary school supplied by South East Water.

In his day job, Ben is CEO and board member Digital Mobile Spectrum Ltd (DMSL) also known as at800. DMSL is the company responsible for ensuring terrestrial television services can be received across the UK as new 4G mobile networks are rolled out. Ben has a background in corporate management, communications, strategy and policy in the competitive high-tech and communications industry where customer service is a priority.