Water bosses in England and Wales face bonus bans for illegal sewage discharges | Water industry

Bosses of water companies in England and Wales who oversee illegal sewage dumping face having their bonuses banned.

Environment Secretary Steve Barclay will block payments to executives of companies that pollute rivers, lakes and seas, starting with bonuses in the 2024-25 financial year starting in April.

Labor and Liberal Democrat campaigners have called for the policy amid outrage over bosses pocketing more than £26million in bonuses, benefits and incentives over the past four years.

Senior executives at five of the 11 water companies dealing with wastewater received bonuses last year, while the other six declined bonuses due to public anger.

At the same time, companies plan to increase consumers' bills by around £156 a year to fund the investment needed to prevent 140,000 sewage spills a year.

Regulator Ofwat will consult on the details of the proposed ban later this year, including setting out the criteria.

This could include successful prosecutions for the two most serious categories of pollution, such as significant pollution of a bathing site or conservation area, or where a company has been found guilty of serious management failures, according to the Ministry of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. Business.

This could apply to CEOs and all board members.

If it went ahead, Ofwat would implement the measures by changing the conditions of water companies' licenses.

Barclay said: “No one should profit from illegal behavior and it’s time water company bosses took responsibility.

“Stricter measures are needed to address the poor performance of water companies, which is why I am pleased that Ofwat is going further today on bonus payments.

“In cases where companies have committed criminal offenses, there is no justification for paying bonuses. This has to stop now.

“I will shortly set out more details on additional measures to clean up our waters, including reducing the reliance on self-monitoring by water companies to hold them to account and drive the improvements we all need to see .”

Shadow Environment Secretary Steve Reed said: “Once again, Labor leads, the Conservatives follow.

“Last year, Labor called for the water regulator to be given new powers to block bonuses awarded to dirty water bosses. After 14 years of doing nothing, the Tories are now ashamed to adopt the Labor plan.

“But they must go further and support Labour’s whole plan to clean up our rivers, and ensure that leaders responsible for repeated illegal sewage dumping are criminally prosecuted.”

Labor said that under their plans Ofwat could have blocked six of water bosses' nine bonuses last year.

An Ofwat spokesperson said: “We introduced new measures last year to ensure executive bonuses are linked to delivering better outcomes for customers and the environment.

“Today’s announcement builds on this approach, but goes even further. We will consult on the details of the proposals later in the year.

Lib Dem environment spokesman Tim Farron said: “Ultimately ministers stuck to a campaign led by the Liberal Democrats more than two years ago but, even now, this attempt to ban the bonuses seems too low and too weak.

“The public watched in fury as Tory MPs defended these disgraced water companies and refused to crack down on insulting bonuses.

“Every day, these polluting and profitable companies engage in acts of environmental vandalism. Bounties should be banned today, regardless of criminal conviction.”

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