Steve Barclay's wife Karen: Who Environment Secretary's spouse? What is Karen Barclay's role at Anglian Water
Alarms have been raised over a potential conflict of interest as Steve Barclay, the new Environment Secretary, is married to a senior executive at Anglian Water
Alarms have been raised over a potential conflict of interest as the UK's new Environment Secretary is married to a senior executive at Anglian Water. Steve Barclay was appointed by Rishi Sunak this week amid his cabinet reshuffle, but it has surfaced that Barclay’s wife holds a senior position at the water company.
As secretary of state, Barclay is responsible for overseeing the regulation of water companies and ensuring they make improvements regarding sewage pollution. Currently, Anglian Water is one of six companies under investigation by the regulator Ofwat for potential illegal dumping of raw sewage.
The water company has also been forced to pay back customers, with more than £27m taken off their bills, because Ofwat found it had failed to meet key targets on reducing pollution, leakages and supply interruptions. In April it pleaded guilty to allowing 7.5m litres, the equivalent of three Olympic-sized swimming pools, of untreated sewage to overflow into the North Sea.
It was fined £2.7million, the largest ever penalty imposed for environmental offences in the east of England region. The judge said the scale of the fine related to the water company "finding itself in court so frequently".
Tim Farron, the environment spokesperson for the Liberal Democrats, told the Guardian that he is “worried” about the “possible conflict of interest here”. He said: “Ministers’ spouses do of course have the right to their own careers, but I do worry about the possible conflict of interest here for the man charged with forcing the water companies to clean up their act. We need to make sure the secretary of state is fully committed to doing everything in his power to stop the sewage scandal.”
Windrush WASP, an organisation fighting against the sewage scandal, posted on the social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter: “New Environment Secretary married to Water Industry executive. An industry that routinely breaks the law and holds the country to ransom over fixing the sewage and supply crisis it created by ripping off the bill payer”.
A government spokesperson told the Guardian: “All Defra ministers declare their interests in line with the ministerial code. There is an established regime in place for the declaration and management of interests held by ministers. This ensures that steps are taken to avoid or mitigate any potential or perceived conflicts of interest.”
So who is Steve Barclay’s wife? Here’s everything you need to know about his spouse who holds a senior position at Anglian Water.
Who is Steve Barclay’s wife?
Karen Barclay has been working for Anglian Water since 2018. She started out at the water company as head of stakeholder engagement and corporate corporations, before becoming head of major infrastructure (DCO) planning and stakeholder engagement in April 2020.
She graduated with a university degree in economics from Royal Holloway, University of London in 2000, going to work for The Financial Services Authority for two years. She then became a senior manager at Royal Mail in 2004, a post she held for three years.
Ms Barclay then re-joined The Financial Services Authority where she worked for a further four years, working her way up from senior associate to CEO chief of staff. She then began working for Anglian Water in November 2018. Mr Barclay disclosed his wife’s job on the most recent List of Ministers’ Interests which was published in April.
Ms Barclay faced criticism in 2021 from villagers in Horningsea after the firm announced that they would be building a sewage plant on a Greenbelt site. Cambridge Independent reported that a Horningsea resident, Catherine Morris, asked in a written question: “Please could you explain what an artificially landscaped, uncovered sewage works with multiple 26m high stacks can offer in the way of recreational opportunities that open countryside and agricultural land can’t?”
Ms Barclay responded that the company had been discussing “making this a more strategic green space and offering a really enjoyable space for people to enjoy the countryside”. Residents reacted to her comments with one saying that she was “talking absolute twaddle”, adding “who in their right mind is going to choose to go on a lovely sunny day and wander around a sewage works?”.
The Planning Inspectorate has since told Anglian Water to go back and draw up a “do nothing option”. It scolded the water firm for missing documents and figures in its draft Development Control Order application.
NationalWorld has contacted Anglian Water for comment.