Foord: Water company chaos shows need for urgent reform

29 Jun 2023

Liberal Democrat MP for Tiverton & Honiton Richard Foord has today called for urgent reform to the way water companies are regulated in the wake of the resignation of the CEO of Thames Water, the UK’s biggest water company.

The CEO of Thames Water Sarah Bentley quit unexpectedly on Wednesday, as concerns mount about the company’s growing debt – which has ballooned to a staggering £14billion.

The company has come under fire in recent years for its poor performance. Last year Thames Water spilled sewage 22 times a day, lost 630 million litres of water a day to leaks, and paid more than £30m in fines for their actions.

Speaking in the House of Commons on Wednesday, local MP Richard Foord raised concerns about the failure of the Government to take responsibility for their failure to properly regulate water firms and also raised concerns about the poor practices of South West Water.

The Pennon Group, which owns South West Water, recently announced a £112 million dividend payout to shareholders. This is despite South West Water being in the midst of a hosepipe ban that could last all year and being under investigation by the industry regulator Ofwat.

In the wake of reports that taxpayers could be left to pick up the tab if Thames Water collapses, Richard Foord has called for a fundamental shift in the way water companies are run to ensure customer service and environmental standards are at the heart of their approach.

Commenting, Richard Foord MP said:

“The recent developments with Thames Water highlight just how poorly managed and regulated water companies have been over recent years.

“The fact that this firm was allowed to rack up £14billion of debt is concerning, especially as taxpayers may now have to pick up this eyewatering bill, should the company need to be taken over by the Government.

“For too long we’ve seen bonuses and dividends put ahead of investment in infrastructure and maintaining sufficient water reserves. This has not only led to water shortages and hosepipe bans, but also the industrial scale dumping of sewage into our rivers and onto our beaches.

“Enough is enough and it’s time to properly reform the way these vital services are run. We need to transform them into Public Benefit Companies, with environmental standards and a quality service to billpayers at their core.  The corporation’s board should include representatives from local environmental groups”

“This Conservative Government has repeatedly failed to take responsibility and properly get a grip of this issue. They need to clamp down on these companies with real action to make them clean up their act or, if they aren’t up to the task, they need to step aside and give regulators the powers needed to enact these essential changes.”

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