Garden hose ban from company that leaks 21 million gallons a day: The shame of the ‘Vampire Kangaroo’ bank-run company

Garden hose ban from water company that leaks 21 million gallons every day: The shame of the ‘Vampire Kangaroo’ bank-run company

  • Southern Water faces further criticism after ordering first ban of summer
  • It was one of two companies to be given a one-star rating by the Environment Agency
  • And the company is controlled by a famous Australian investment bank
  • Its British-born chief executive was recently paid £14.8m with benefits

It gained notoriety for its record polluting rivers.

Now Southern Water is facing fresh criticism after ordering the first garden hose ban this summer – as its faulty infrastructure leaks nearly 21 million gallons of water a day.

It was one of two companies to receive a one-star rating – meaning it was ‘terrible across the board’ – in an extortionate assessment of the industry’s environmental performance by the Agency. for the environment two weeks ago.

The company is controlled by renowned Australian investment bank Macquarie, nicknamed the vampire kangaroo due to its tough approach to business.

Southern Water’s temporary use ban will see gardeners fined for watering withered plants

Its British-born managing director, Shemara Wikramanayake, whose last annual salary was £14.8million, was one of 60 current and former employees to be named in 2020 as suspects by German authorities in an investigation into fictitious business schemes.

Southern Water has gained notoriety for polluting rivers.  Now it bans garden hoses (file image)

Southern Water has gained notoriety for polluting rivers. Now it bans garden hoses (file image)

Macquarie previously owned Thames Water, where he loaded the company with £10billion in debt. It has now increased Southern Water’s debt load from £5bn to £6bn after taking it over last August.

That’s part of the reason why an operating profit of just over £16m at Southern for the year ending late March turned into a loss of nearly £848m. .

It meant the company got a tax credit for the year of over £86million – which can be offset against future tax bills.

Days before the Environment Agency’s assessment of Southern, chief executive Ian McAulay retired after taking a £1.4million salary for his final year, partly boosted by a bonus related to the takeover of Macquarie.

Southern Water was fined over £200m by regulators for thousands of illegal sewage discharges that polluted rivers and waterways in Kent, Hampshire and Sussex between 2010 and 2015 .


Southern Water has described the following activities as prohibited under their temporary use ban

Watering a garden with a garden hose

Cleaning a private motor vehicle using a garden hose

Watering plants in domestic or other non-commercial premises using a garden hose

Cleaning a private pleasure boat using a garden hose

Filling or maintaining a domestic swimming pool or paddling pool

Drawing water, using a garden hose, for domestic recreational purposes

Filling or maintaining a domestic pond using a garden hose

Fill or maintain an ornamental fountain

Cleaning the walls or windows of domestic premises using a garden hose

Clean driveways or patios with a garden hose

Cleaning other artificial outdoor surfaces using a garden hose

Mr McAulay, who took over as chief executive in 2016, was at the helm when Southern was criticized for a major sewage spill at Langstone Harbor in Hampshire, a wildlife conservation area.

Drone footage showed a pipe spitting out its contents for more than two days – one of more than 50 untreated sewage spills in a single day last October.

Mr McAulay infuriated environmentalists when he tried to play down the incident, saying: ‘It was an authorized stormwater discharge which was incorrectly described as ‘sewage’ – it included 96 % rainwater.”

He was then replaced as general manager by Lawrence Gosden, another industry veteran, this month.

His salary package has yet to be disclosed, but if on par with his predecessor it would mean a base salary of £435,000.

Mr Gosden had previously spent 12 years at Macquarie-owned Thames Water until it sold its final stake in the business in 2017.

The Australian bank’s 11-year run of the Thames has seen it pay out more than £1bn in dividends while burdening the company with £10bn of debt.

It paid little corporation tax in the UK, operating a complex – but legal – corporate structure using subsidiaries in the Cayman Islands, a tax haven.

Days after Macquarie’s exit, Thames Water was fined £20 million – a record at the time – for a series of pollution incidents on the River Thames.

The Environment Agency said these were ’caused by negligence and resulted in the death of wildlife and public distress’.

Martin Bradley, of the Australian bank’s asset management arm, said after the pollution incidents last October it would help Southern Water “to improve its performance, financial resilience and customer relationships”.


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