Monday 24 January 2022 / 2:10 PM Environment / Jim McMahon / Water Industry

Conservatives’ ‘broken system’ leaves working families footing bill for water shareholder payouts

Households in England paid out up to £138 every year 2010-21 to cover the cost of water company shareholder dividends– while they have dumped more and more raw sewage into rivers.

Analysis from the University of Greenwich shows £19bn was paid out in dividends to shareholders in water and sewerage businesses operating in England between 2010 and 2021, costing working families between £32 and £138 every year.

Meanwhile, the same businesses slashed their investment in wastewater management by more than £520 million, comparisons between the 1990s and 2020s show, while they cut £1bn from overall capital investment which could have helped reduce the leakage of thousands of litres a second of treated water.

Campaigners say companies have been using illegal routine dumping as a way of avoiding properly investing in their networks.

Companies were responsible for nearly 400,000 sewage dumping events in 2020 alone, overall, 2020 saw 3,077,850 hours of sewage dumping across England alone. Ofwat has reported an average 229,029 litres of water and wastewater leaked into the natural environment every 10 seconds in 2020-21.

Jim McMahon MP, Labour’s Shadow Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Secretary, said:

“After a decade of Conservative rule, vital services continue to be stripped back thanks to cuts, while the pockets of shareholders are cushioned from any blow and working families made to pay the price.

“The system is clearly broken and the government is refusing to listen to Labour’s calls for higher fines for water companies, proper annual parliamentary scrutiny of Defra, Ofwat and the Environment Agency, as well as a proper plan for reducing raw sewage being discharged.

“Labour’s contract with the British people for prosperity, security and respect, will see an end to sewage dumping to clean up our rivers, lakes and seas.”