The Committee

The Committee was first established in early 2005 to oversee the operation of the Waterways Ombudsman scheme and the independence and accessibility of the Ombudsman. The Committee has five members, with the provision in the rules for a sixth. Of the five members, three (including the current chairman - Kevin Fitzgerald) are independent and two are appointed by the Canal & River Trust. Full details of the membership of the Committee are given in the latest Annual Report and full details of their role in the Rules of the Waterways Ombudsman Scheme.

The main roles of the Committee are:

  • the appointment (or removal from office) of the Ombudsman;
  • keeping the operation of the scheme under review, both to ensure that it meets its purposes and that it is adequately funded;
  • to receive reports on the method and adequacy of publicising the scheme;
  • to publish an annual report.

Issues relating to the investigation or determination of complaints are matters for the Ombudsman alone, and the Committee has no part to play in those.

The current Committee members are:

Independent members

Kevin Fitzgerald CMG is Directeur du Cabinet at the United Nations World Intellectual Property Organisation, Geneva where he recently published a good practice toolkit of legislative and regulatory best practice for collective management organisations. Previously he was Chief Executive of the UK's copyright agency where, inter alia, he led the setting up of regulation for the copyright industry. His other roles have included being The Independent Member of the Public Diplomacy Committee and a member of the Consular Services Board at The Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and Independent Non-Executive Director of the East of England Tourist Board. He was awarded a CMG in the Queen's Birthday Honours 2013.

Steve Harriott works as the Chief Executive of The Dispute Service which operates tenancy deposit protection schemes across the UK. These schemes all operate under government contracts. In addition to protecting deposits it also provides free alternative dispute resolution services in relation to tenancy deposit disputes and deals with c. 16,000 disputes a year.

Steve’s professional background is in the area of social housing where he has worked as chief executive of a number of housing associations in England. He also serves as an independent member on the Boards of Chatham Maritime Trust (as Vice Chair) and of Gravesend Churches Housing Association in Kent (as Chair designate). He writes widely on tenancy deposit issues and is keen to see the wider use of alternative dispute resolution to resolve consumer disputes.

Karen McArthur had leadership roles in Corporate Responsibility/Sustainability for global companies including Vodafone and Thomson Reuters and now has a portfolio of roles advocating for customers including at London Travel Watch, Chartered Banker Professional Standards Board and at MCSSCo.  She is an independent member of the water forum at Severn Trent and is Chair of the group advocating for the interests of vulnerable consumers.

She is a Trustee for British Gas Energy Trust working to support vulnerable customers across the energy sector and is an Independent Member Nominations Committee at the National Trust as well as a Lay Member of the Audit & Standards Advisory Committee at London Borough of Brent

Members appointed by the Canal & River Trust

Tom Deards is the head of legal & governance services, and company secretary. He has responsibility for the legal and governance functions of the Trust. He is a qualified solicitor who joined the Trust’s legal team in 2007, having trained and qualified into the asset finance team at City law firm Clifford Chance, before going on to complete a Legal Masters at UCL in Environmental Law, whilst gaining experience working as an environment and planning lawyer in local government. Tom is the Trust’s Company Secretary and Data Protection Officer.

Janet Hogben was appointed as a Trustee Director of the Canal & River Trust in September 2016 and is a member of the Trust’s Remuneration Committee.

Janet was previously the Chief People Officer at EDF Energy, a role she retired from at the end of 2017. Her earlier career spanned many functions and leadership roles in various blue chip companies.

In December 2018 she was appointed to the Royal Brompton & Harefield Hospital Trust Board.