Here’s a double-whammy:
Most people believe that jail sentences are a fitting punishment for water bosses when their companies are responsible for major pollution spills in our rivers, waterways and shores. The strength of public feeling is revealed by an exclusive YouGov poll commissioned by Good Law Project.
The polling of 2,112 people across Great Britain has revealed that:
- 60% of respondents believe that the chief executives of water companies should receive prison sentences if they are found to be responsible for serious incidents of water pollution. Only 21% disagree.
- 82% have heard something about sewage discharges from media coverage about the issue.
- 53% blame the water companies for sewage discharges into our rivers and seas.
People have had enough. This disgraceful situation needs to be brought to an end urgently.
It follows – doesn’t it? – that the privatisation of the UK’s water supply has been nothing but a horrifying failure and an ecological disaster.
And how do the water firms respond to calls for them to act?
Water firms are making ‘a mockery’ of efforts to link executive pay to environmental performance by refusing to measure how much raw sewage is spewing into rivers and seas, experts say.
Industry regulator Ofwat wants private water companies to align bosses’ bonuses to pollution targets.
But companies do not monitor the amount of sewage being dumped into waterways.
Instead, they collect data on when the spills occur and how long they last.
Campaigners say weak regulators and budget cuts have allowed water companies to get away with a decades-long lack of investment in the Victorian-era sewage network.
And while firms monitor when spills happen and how long they last as part of a range of performance indicators used to set executive bonuses, none of the water companies contacted by the Mail said they monitored the amount of sewage being dumped into waterways.
Bonuses can run into hundreds of thousands of pounds.
United Utilities, the monopoly water supplier to 7m customers in north-west England … was responsible for 40 per cent of all spills last year.
Its chief executive Steven Mogford received a £727,000 bonus last year as part of his £3.2million pay packet.
United has a £230 million investment at 15 of its 575 treatment work sites to reduce spillages ‘by more than 10m tons a year – the equivalent of 4,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools’, a spokesman for the firm said.
If United has a reliable model to measure volume then, as an environmental campaigner asked in the article,
“Why not share it with the public and the wider industry?”
And what of the regulator?
Ofwat confirmed that so-called ‘event duration monitors’ that companies are installing only measure the number of spills and their duration, not volume.
It has also drawn up plans to block dividend payments – which have totalled an estimated £66billion since privatisation three decades ago – telling boards to ‘take account’ of environmental and customer performance when deciding payouts.
But it has only fined only one company – Southern Water – since sewage spill rules were introduced in 1994.
So: a toothless regulator means privatised, profit-driven water firms have no incentive to invest in improvements to their archaic system, or to stop filling our waterways with untreated sewage.
And they’ll make us pay through the nose for this “service” so they can pay themselves a fortune each year.
Did you vote for this?
And, more to the point:
Would you vote for a political party that would put a stop to it?
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