Rivers of S**: unbelievably, the Tory government and regulators Ofwat and the Environment Agency reckon they have not broken the law by failing to regulate this torrent of untreated sewage properly.
Unbelievable but true: the UK’s Tory government is digging its heels in and insisting that it, together with regulators Ofwat and the Environment Agency, has not broken the law over how it regulates sewage releases into the UK’s waterways.
The UK’s environment watchdog suspects the government and water regulators have broken the law over how they regulate sewage releases.
It follows continued high levels of sewage releases in England which topped 825 times a day last year.
Campaigners and opposition MPs have called the regulators “complicit” in allowing the pollution.
The government said it did not agree with the Office for Environmental Protection’s “initial interpretations”.
Following complaints to the OEP over sewage in June 2022 it announced it was investigating whether England’s regulators, Ofwat and the Environment Agency, along with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), were correctly enforcing the law on water companies.
In response to the announcement the government said: “The volume of sewage discharged is completely unacceptable. That is why we are the first government in history to take such comprehensive action to tackle it.”
That is hardly an alibi as it is the first UK government in history that needed to!
As for the substantive complaint – that far too much untreated sewage is stinking up our waterways – the instinctive urge is to come out with a lavatorial expletive like, “No sh**, Sherlock!”
There is massive misinformation by Therese Coffey here. Water is getting worse. 93% is not good, as she claims. Only 14% is good according to her own departmental statistics. And £56bn is not enough to tackle this. £260bn is required. Why is she lying about this? https://t.co/Xq2XK4tK1R
Speaking at the launch of the government’s Plan for Water, Ms Coffey said the River Don in Yorkshire will never be given a high status without dismantling half of Sheffield.
“Achieving the gold standard for ecological status would mean taking us back to the natural state of our rivers from the year 1840,” Ms Coffey said.
“That’s neither practical nor indeed desirable in the circumstances. We’re not going to take London back to before the embankment was built or remove the Thames Barrier and, indeed, we’ll need another before the end of the century.
“And no one is contemplating dismantling half of Sheffield to let the River Don run free, but without that it will never be scored as being excellent, even though salmon have returned to that part of the River Don for the first time in two years.”
Feargal had a few things to say about that:
He said: “She’s conflating what was a government attempt to circumnavigate a legal deadline of 2027 and the natural state – which is a completely meaningless idea – with the idea that these rivers can’t achieve good ecological status, which they can.
“Even though it’s running through the centre of the city, there’s no reason to stop it from having a wide abundance of fish and flora and fauna, bugs and weeds can be a healthy ecosystem.”
Craig Bennett, chief executive of The Wildlife Trusts, said: “No one is calling for the dismantling of towns and cities but we are demanding an end to the grotesque pollution entering our lakes, rivers and seas.
“Attempts to continue business as usual, allowing polluters to poison rivers and stripping back environmental protections, would be a disaster for nature and future generations.”
That’s the problem in a nutshell: the Tories have reversed the progress on water quality by allowing the privatised water firms to flood our waterways with sewage in the name of financial profit.
The solution isn’t hard. We don’t have to turn the clock back to 1840 – just to before the privatisation of the UK’s water providers.
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– This is a song by a local musician, here in Mid Wales, written during the last serious flooding. I make no apologies for opportunistically linking to it as it says a few choice words about the situation and the government.
“And the rains came down, and the floods came up” – The Wise Man and the Foolish Man (Southern Folk Song).
Some of you may have noticed we’ve had a few spots of wet weather recently. This is nothing new to our island nation.
The trouble is, having fallen on us all, the water hasn’t had the decency to clear off and drain away. Instead, it has built up and up and caused a huge amount of flood damage to land and houses that were not built in a safe place, as in the song lyric quoted above, but in flood plains.
This is a result of bad planning – by water and sewerage companies that have failed to implement successful drainage schemes or to divert floodwater from rivers in order to prevent overflow, and by planning authorities that have allowed housing to be built in the wrong place.
What were they thinking?
My guess is that the water companies were thinking about the money, and planning authorities wanted to ease overcrowding.
We live in a country where management of the water supply went into private hands several decades ago. When that happened, it became impossible to have any kind of integrated plan to deal with the supply of water, droughts, floods and storage. Water supply became a commodity to be bought and sold by rich people according to the golden rules of capitalism: Invest the minimum; charge the maximum.
So reservoirs have been sold off to foreign water companies, meaning we have no adequate response to droughts. None have been built, meaning we have no adequate response to floods. Concerns about river flooding have been neglected. There has not been the investment in extraction and storage of floodwater that repeated incidents over the last few years have demanded.
The government is reducing its budget for handling these issues. Not only that, but it is delaying implementation of a new policy on drainage.
This would be regulated by local authorities, who have responsibility for planning approvals. Some might say these authorities should have had a little more forethought before granting applications to build on flood plains, or for adaptations to existing properties that have prevented water from draining into the soil and sent it down drains instead, to overload the sewer system.
Some of these are matters of necessity: Planning officers may have gone to the limit of what is allowed, in order to allow housing developments that relieve the burden of overcrowding; in other matters, they may have been unable to apply any legal restrictions on applications.
In short, there is no joined-up thinking.
There will be no joined-up thinking in the future, either – unless the situation is changed radically.
Meanwhile, the cost racked up by the damage is huge – in ruined farmland, in ruined homes and possessions, and blighted lives. And what about the risk of disease that floodwater brings with it? The NHS in England is ill-equipped to deal with any outbreaks, being seriously weakened by the government-sponsored incursions of private, cheap-and-simple health firms.
Something has to give beneath the weight of all this floodwater. Change is vital – from commercial competition to co-operation and co-ordination.
Privatisation of water has failed. It’s time to bring it back under public control.
Is anyone opposed?
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Hero of the week: Peter Hain put the record straight about the cause of the UK’s current economic woes (bankers) and the Conservatives’ attitude to bank regulation (they wanted less of it before the crash). At long last, the facts came out on a national media outlet!
There are a lot of potential topics for discussion but yr obdt srvt (that’s me) is very short of time on this sunny Sunday, so today’s article is going to have to be a quick run through of Things You Need to Know.
Nice one. Shame it won’t scratch the surface of the £2 billion that has been spent by UK councils on temp accommodation since 2009 – that’s an average of £500 million per year; 250 times the puny amount Mr Prisk is offering, to alleviate problems his government has created with (for example) the Bedroom Tax.
The BBC and many others have reported that Tim Yeo has joined the growing ranks of Tory MPs involved in ‘lobbying’ scandals, alongside Patrick Mercer from last week. Unlike Mercer, the allegation does not involve taking money to raise an issue (paid advocacy) – instead it is alleged that he coached an organisation, telling representatives what to say to the Commons’ Energy and Climate Change committee. It’s still corruption, and it’s staggering that these people are being allowed to continue as MPs while investigations go on, and possibly even afterwards, if they are found guilty. Should we really have people who have been proven to be dishonest, helping to make decisions on the future of our country?
It’s just a shame that funding for the CAB (much of it from the government or statutory authorities) is declining, isn’t it? It’s almost as if somebody planned it that way, to make it even harder for poor people to get any justice. (I write as the vice-chair of a Welsh CAB so, believe me, I know my facts).
On the subject of justice, did anyone hear John Finnemore on The Now Show, laying into inJustice Secretary Chris Grayling’s ‘reform’ (there’s that word again) of the Legal Aid system that will make it impossible for anyone in that system to get justice, unless – you guessed it – they’re rich.
“Legal Aid will have a financial eligibility threshold. To be fair, this doesn’t seem like the worst idea in the world,” he said. “And I can be confident about that, because right there next to it – as if deliberately placed there for purposes of comparison – are two of the worst ideas in the world.
“One – defendants will no longer have the right to choose their own lawyer; two – legal aid contracts will be awarded on the basis of price-competitive tender, i.e. who’s cheapest, to private companies – like Tesco and Eddie Stobart. You know, the lorry guy.
“You might almost wonder whether this might affect the quality of the representation in some way but Chris Grayling, Minister of Justice and dispenser of none, assures us it will not… Even though everywhere else, the government is obsessed with getting us to choose… when it comes to poor people who’ve been arrested, suddenly Daddy knows best.
“The bargain-basement Eddie Stobart Legal Aid lawyers will be paid a flat fee, regardless of results and, best of all, regardless of whether the client pleads guilty – which is quick and cheap – or not guilty, which is not. Yes, Chris Grayling has actually created a system where privately-run Legal Aid firms have a direct financial incentive to persuade their clients to plead guilty, while simultaneously being under enormous pressure to slash costs to the bone in order to put in a tender low enough to keep the contract.
“Meanwhile, the career crims… tend to trust their regular solicitor and take their advice if they suggest they’d be better-off pleading guilty, but they’re certainly not going to take that advice from Eddie McTesco in his ‘My First Lawyer’ costume. So they’re going to start pleading not guilty to everything.
“Well done, Mr Grayling, you’ve pulled off the double – innocent people encouraged to plead guilty; guilty people to plead not guilty. What a merry, madcap world of misrule you have created, Mr Grayling, you absolute tit!”
Finally, still on the radio, did everyone hear Peter Hain on Any Questions, putting the record straight on the reasons for the economic crisis and the facts about bank regulation – two subjects about which the Conservatives have been hugely vocal in their lies for many years.
He was talking about the announcements last week by Labour’s leaders, on their future plans for welfare. He’s critical (which is a relief), but he said it would not be right to make promises about things that Labour can’t deliver.
“We can’t deliver because this economic policy of the Tory-Lib Dem government is failing on a spectacular scale,” he said. “They’re doing all these things, all these cuts, in order to bring borrowing down, the deficit down, debt down.
“What’s happening? Borrowing is £245 billion higher than they said it would be in 2010 when they began this cuts programme. The national debt is £309 billion higher – and the deficit is £78 billion higher.
“It’s because cutting and cutting and cutting is a way to putting people out of work, destroying businesses, they don’t pay taxes, you don’t get government revenues and everybody goes on benefit – that’s why this is a spectacular catastrophe and we’re going to have to rescue the country from that, and we’ve got to do it responsibly and honestly.”
Owen Paterson, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, went on the attack with the usual rubbish about Labour overspending but didn’t get very far before Hain put him straight: “It was the banks that destroyed the economy, not the Labour government – it was the international banking system!”
Uproarious applause from the studio audience in Machynlleth (just up the road from me) where the broadcast was taking place. They – like most of the British population – had clearly been waiting years for someone to come out with that simple fact on a national media outlet: The banks caused the current economic situation, not Labour.
Let’s just repeat it: The banks caused the current economic situation, not Labour.
Anyone suggesting otherwise is just plain wrong.
Paterson riposted weakly, “Because Gordon Brown didn’t regulate them”. But Hain had his answer for that ready, as well.
“You wanted lighter regulation. Come on, remember – you wanted lighter regulation!”
And that was also true.
Paterson went further into idiocy by prattling about breaking the national credit card – the kind of stuff that we all now know is nonsense and that has been disproved irrefutably on this blog and in many other places – and about the private sector creating 1.25 million new jobs, which we know it hasn’t done, for example, because 200,000 were education jobs that the government redefined from public to private, probably in order to create another made-up statistic.
In other words, the Conservatives have no arguments for what they’re doing. No arguments about the economy. No arguments about the cuts they have been making.
I’ve met Peter Hain a couple of times, and I’ve had a few differences of opinion with him – but in this instance he was right on the button and far more effective in putting forward an argument for supporting Labour than anything Ed Miliband said in his “we’re supporting Tory policies because we think pretending to be Tories will win us votes” speech last week.
It was one of the worst speeches a Labour leader could have made, but if it prompts more Labour representatives, like Peter Hain, to stand up for the party and present a proper case for opposition to this hateful, incompetent, evil shower – the Coalition – then it might do some good in spite of itself.
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