Liberal Democrat environment spokesman Tim Farron says the looming garden hose ban ‘could have been avoided’
Water company bosses saw their payrolls swell by an average of a fifth last year, despite billions of liters of water lost to leaks, according to the Liberal Democrats.
Top executives at 10 water companies were handed pay packages worth nearly £25million in total last year, according to a Liberal Democrat analysis, described by a party figure as a ‘national scandal “.
The regulator has warned that performance-related pay at privatized water companies “cannot be a one-way street” and said a review is underway on executive pay at the biggest companies.
It comes as Thames, Southern, South East, South West and Yorkshire Water are leaking the equivalent of 16 million bathtubs every day, according to the GMB union.
Despite their leaky infrastructure, researchers at the University of Greenwich have found nine English water companies paid out £0.5billion in dividends last year alone, with private shareholders paying £18.9billion sterling in payments since 2010.
And as wages and bonuses rise, watering bans are underway across the country, with parts of England and Wales officially declared drought-prone.
Water company executives pay “20%”
Top executives of UK water companies have seen their pay rise by around 20% on average, with bonuses alone reaching an average of £670,000, according to new analysis by the Liberal Democrats.
Despite widespread problems with leaks and supply problems, salaries and bonuses rose by a fifth for water company bosses between 2020/2021 and 2021/2022, according to annual reports, with an average increase of nearly £200,000 per boss over the past 12 months.
Among 22 bosses, pay packages including base pay, bonuses, incentives and benefits totaled £24.8million last year, according to analysis by the Liberal Democrats.
David Black, chief executive of regulator Ofwat, said: ‘I was very clear with corporate compensation committees in March that performance-related pay for CEOs should be clearly linked to their performance for clients. , the environment and society. We are conducting our own analysis and plan to report if we believe companies have clearly made this connection.
“Performance pay cannot be a one-way street, if companies are not performing it should be reflected in executive compensation.”
Meanwhile, sewage was released into rivers and oceans along the entire south coast of England earlier this week and a garden hose ban is set to come into force for millions of people, after that water companies lost billions of liters of water to leaks last year.
Eleven beaches in Cornwall have been infested with human waste and the water at five beaches in Devon has been marked as unsafe for swimming.
Liberal Democrat MP for Tiverton and Honiton Richard Foord has seen beaches in his constituency marked as unsafe this week due to sewage discharges.
He called for action “so that our children don’t have to build sand castles next to the sewers”.
He said: ‘Locals and holidaymakers should not be forced to swim among human waste. Devon’s beaches are some of the best in the world, but the government turns a blind eye while private companies ruin them.
“Conservative MPs are taking the side of the water companies by not challenging this mess. There is outrage here about the actions of these companies and the West Country MPs who voted to allow it should be ashamed.
Impending garden hose ban despite billions of gallons lost to leaks
Meanwhile, a number of these water companies are set to implement watering bans for millions of customers, despite wasting more than a billion liters of water every day of the year. last, according to an analysis by the GMB union.
Thames, Southern, South East, South West and Yorkshire Water leaked the equivalent of 16 million baths or 500 Olympic swimming pools every 24 hours, according to GMB.
In total, the union says the five companies wasted 460 billion liters of water in the 2020/21 financial year.
Liberal Democrat Environment Critic, MP Tim Farron: “This is a national scandal. These filthy polluting habits have made beaches dangerous in the middle of the summer holidays and harmed Britain’s precious wildlife.
“Garden hose bans could have been avoided this summer if these water company CEOs had bothered to invest in their rusty pipes rather than putting profits in their pockets.
“They put profit before the environment. Frankly, it all stinks.
“Worst of all, ministers just let them off the hook. The government blocked the ban on pumping sewage into our waterways and let creaking pipes burst.
“This government is guilty by association of letting the water companies get away with it”
Water UK, which represents private water companies, said the companies agree there is a need for “urgent action to tackle the damage to the environment from storm overflow discharges and sewage treatment works.
They said companies are investing more than £3billion to improve the environment between 2020 and 2025, while leakage is at “the lowest level on record” with further reductions expected each year.
A spokesperson said: “All water company executive bonuses are performance-based and reflect results for customers and the environment. Private investment has brought more than £160bn to a previously cash-strapped industry, while improving water utility efficiency by more than 70%. This efficiency means lower costs, allowing bills to remain roughly the same for over a decade in real terms, while enabling new investment in resilience projects and reduced leakage.