Polluting water firms splash £9m on bosses: Top brass rake in a fortune despite public’s anger over raw sewage in Britain’s rivers
Three of Britain’s largest water companies paid their bosses almost £9million during the last financial year despite coming under fire over sewage pollution and executive bonuses.
Severn Trent, United Utilities and Pennon Group handed out the rewards as households face a cost-of-living squeeze from soaring inflation and rocketing energy bills. Company documents show that the businesses have paid out more than £50million to their chief executives since 2015.
There has been widespread public fury over the dumping of raw sewage into Britain’s waterways. Water companies in England discharged waste into rivers on more than 400,000 occasions in 2020, according to a damning report by the Environment Agency published last year.
It found across the year firms released untreated sewage for more than three million hours.
Campaigner and former rock star Feargal Sharkey described the financial rewards for the bosses as ‘unwarranted, uncalled for and simply reinforcing the idea that it pays to pollute’.
Sharkey, who is chairman of the oldest angling club in England, the Amwell Magna Fishery, in Hertfordshire, bygevoeg: ‘At a time when everybody has been squeezed, it is an obscenity and an insult that those gross and exaggerated bonuses are being directly funded from bill payers’ money.’
Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey said in May that higher earners should ‘think and reflect’ before seeking big rewards.
Verlede maand, shares in Severn Trent, United Utilities and Pennon all fell after regulator Ofwat launched an investigation into Pennon’s South West Water.
This was the latest sewage-related probe announced by Ofwat, which had already initiated action against Anglian Water, Northumbrian Water, Thames Water, Wessex Water and Yorkshire Water.
Ofwat boss David Black has been a vocal critic of Britain’s privatised water companies, most of which are facing enforcement cases. Verlede week, hy het gesê: ‘The scale of the issue is shocking.’ Black believes water firms should link executive pay to performance measures – including sewage pollution.
Firms are legally obliged to treat sewage before it is pumped into rivers, but discharges of raw waste are permitted after heavy rain.
The Mail on Sunday revealed last month that Severn Trent chief Liv Garfield was paid £3.9million in the company’s last financial year – a massive increase of £830,000 on the previous year. Just months earlier the Midlands-based water supplier was attacked for hiking bills by an average of 7.1 persent.
Our analysis reveals that Garfield was the highest paid of the three water bosses.
It can also be revealed today that United Utilities boss Steve Mogford raked in £3.2million during the last financial year. Perks and bonuses worth £2.5million made up the majority. The total almost matched the £3.3million he was paid a year earlier.
Pennon’s Susan Davy was paid £1.6million after stepping up to the role in July 2020. Her annual wage rose by more than 4 per cent to £475,000.
Garfield and Mogford each made a total of £21million during the last seven years.
Executive director of the High Pay Centre, Luke Hildyard, said the pay of a chief executive officer of a water company should not be much higher than a senior public servant as it is ‘essentially a public service’.
Hy het bygevoeg: ‘These are important roles, but they require competent managers – not entrepreneurs.’
United Utilities said in May that it was helping 200,000 ‘struggling’ households and expected no increase in average water bills in the coming financial year.
Pennon said in May that South West Water bills were lower ‘in real terms’ than ten years ago.
Severn Trent has been hit by environmental fines totalling £3.4million since 2020. Verlede Desember, it was fined £1.5million for illegally dumping 80,000 gallons of sewage.
Voorheen, the MoS revealed that Thames Water, Yorkshire Water and Southern Water paid no corporation tax in 2021.
All three companies declined to comment.