What Katy Did Next…

Katy Taylor

Ten weeks ago we revealed the search was on to replace Wightlink’s Keith Greenfield, the company’s head honcho since 2016.

A global headhunter was looking for a superstar capable of steering the ferry operator through tumultuous tides. But who needs that when you can find someone close to home who’s fine-tuned in the art of crisis management?

Introducing Katy Taylor, the latest helmswoman to navigate Wightlink’s unreliable and expensive services through the choppy waters of making the company more environmentally friendly. The global headhunters went through the motions to find Katy, who joins from Southern Water (SW), an institution well known for its innovative approach to aquatic improvement – transforming our rivers and coastal waters into, well, less-than-refreshing environments.

Sadly, as we predicted, this captain of industry doesn’t live on the Island. Still on the bright side, at least she’ll be able to get to work on time without having to rely on the availability of essential staff members. And it must be said she has lots of relevant experience.

Katy knows her stuff

For instance, she is used to big numbers. In 2021 Southern Water was fined a record £90m for polluting our rivers and seas – a minor hiccup in an otherwise illustrious career of, erm, customer satisfaction. She’s also familiar with the tax-efficient business model of our ferry companies. Like Wightlink, SW is a privatised former public service – and even Michael Gove has noticed that things aren’t exactly perfect. He has said the water company has a “particularly keen use of sophisticated financial engineering” which reduces its corporation tax burden – the company is a mere £5.2 billion in debt – even more than Wightlink.

And of course Wightlink used to be owned by the Australian ‘vampire kangaroo’ Maquarie ‘asset managers’ – who now own SW.

Dealing with bad press might be part of Katy’s new job. So it was reassuring to see she helpfully explained away reports that SW asked their regulator, OFWAT, to let them increase bills by 91 per cent, were wide of the mark. She conceded the figure was based on SW’s own business plans, but said some crafty ‘third party’ had included estimated inflation levels. That might seem reasonable to many of us – but not Katy. But thankfully (for its owners, that is) Wightlink doesn’t have a regulator, so she’ll be able to put up our fares as high as she likes – without thinking up creative explanations or asking anybody at all.

Katy won’t even need to learn any new lines. Talking about the proposed massive price hike, she said: “We agree with our customers that we must now charge more so we can bring our bills in line with inflation, rising costs and, more importantly, so we can invest more to meet the expectations of our customers, and protect and enhance our environment.”

Sounds just like something Wightlink would come out with – although pretending your customers want a price increase a new one on us. Did SW ask you whether you wanted them to double your water bills? No, nor us!

What will Katy be up to?

Katy, who has a delightful smile (perhaps she’s bettered Keith’s salary of £377,000 a year) is looking forward to popping over to see us. She explained: “Having visited the Isle of Wight in my previous roles over the past 12 years, I am looking forward to spending more time on the Island, both for business and pleasure.” We initially thought “Here’s hoping she doesn’t get too attached to our beaches…”

But then she explained that Wightlink is going green, “I am delighted to be joining the Solent’s leading ferry operator as it transforms its business to meet future challenges, including decarbonising its ships and shore facilities to meet net zero targets and building greater links with the local communities.” So perhaps she’ll be joining Surfers against Sewage for their protests against polluted water. Time will tell.

Meanwhile Keith claims to have “enjoyed every minute” of his job, adding: “The company is in good shape for the future, and it is the right time for me to hand over to Katy to achieve even more in the years to come.”

“Even more” of what is the troubling question?

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