The View From…. flood defence
Peter Bateson FCCA, chief executive and finance officer, Witham Fourth District Internal Drainage Board.
Ours is a small public body, delivering water level and flood risk management for over 700 kilometres of watercourses running across 40,000 hectares of Lincolnshire. We operate seven pumping stations and in 2012 – our wettest year so far – we pumped the equivalent of the contents of Rutland Water! As well as leadership and finance, my role covers regulatory and governance compliance under the supervision of DEFRA.
My typical day starts at 7 am for a 60 minute commute to Boston. On arrival I eat my porridge and scan news and social media for flood related comment or stories, signposting these to colleagues. I respond to correspondence, speak to the finance and engineering teams to manage day-to-day issues and work on reports and consultations. I get to London monthly for meetings of the Association of Drainage Authorities, for which I am company secretary.
I have a low boredom threshold, so I like variety – and my role has plenty of this. I can be preparing briefing notes for a local MP one minute and updating the board’s website the next.
Our workload is determined by the rainfall, which makes budget management tricky. Climate change will make this even more erratic, but so far we have stayed ahead of the weather.
I wish the government would learn from Holland and treat the management of flood risk as a long term strategic ‘MUST HAVE’ and invest accordingly. I saw the impact of flooding in Boston in December 2013 first hand and it took families and businesses an unbelievable amount of time to recover. Flooding impacts on so many parts of the economy and our personal lives Prevention is much cheaper than the costs of clearing up after the event.
I began my career with Deloitte and was part of their CSR initiative, I believe in socially responsible business. I am currently a Young Enterprise Business Advisor at a local secondary academy and a governor at my local primary school. I introduced ‘CARE’ programmes in my previous roles, which had huge benefits through employee volunteering for individuals and employers.
After qualifying in 1991, I said I would never sit another exam. But 18 years later I completed an MBA at Nottingham Law School which cemented my interest in strategic thinking. Committing £16,000 and most of my spare time to the MBA was a big commitment, so I was incredibly pleased to complete it. My current role benefits from my development through the MBA programme.
I love new technology. I sing and play the guitar most evenings and have played a couple of small gigs. I play golf at the weekend and have an allotment which is neglected for half the year, yet it still manages to produce lots of vegetables. I am also a member of the ACCA public sector network and attend its meetings and events, which is pretty painless as I live near the East Coast rail line.