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Davey: Tories failed on water pollution

today25/05/2024

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Davey: Tories failed on water pollution

The Conservatives have “failed” on water pollution issues and let big companies “off the hook”, Sir Ed Davey has said, as he announced the Liberal Democrats’ plans for tackling sewage and regulation of the water industry.

Speaking on Saturday as he hit the campaign trail in Chichester, West Sussex, the party leader said the public were “alarmed” about the damage being done to rivers and seas in the UK and that it was an environmental, public health and economic issue.

In the run-up to the General Election, the Lib Dems have unveiled plans to abolish Ofwat and introduce a new water regulator to tackle the sewage crisis and claimed that party analysis shows water company bosses have pocketed some £54 million in bonuses since 2019.

According to the Environment Agency, sewage spills into England’s rivers and seas more than doubled in 2023 with 3.6 million hours of spills last year – equal to about 400 years – compared with 1.75 million hours in 2022.

Sir Ed smiled as he donned a buoyancy aid for a short boat trip around the Birdham Pool Marina to highlight the area’s natural beauty with Lib Dem Chichester candidate Jess Brown-Fuller.

Speaking to the PA news agency, Sir Ed said: “The Liberal Democrats have been leading the campaign to highlight the problem for several years now and think we’ve really made traction and really exposed how the Conservative Government keeps failing people on this issue.

“Failing to get tougher regulations, failing to fine the water companies properly, failing to reform them and starting to get tough on them and stop this appalling pollution.”

In visiting Chichester, the party leader said he hoped to highlight that pollution in the local waterways was impacting upon local tourism and small businesses as well as the environment.

He continued: “It’s a public health issue, it’s environment issue, it’s a public health issue and animal health issue.

“It’s an economic issue because if you go to places like this, you will find the link with the economic side of the place is huge.

“It’s a massive issue with the small businesses.

“So the Tories have let these large big water companies off the hook by not being tough on them, and it’s hitting the small businesses.”

On Friday, Ofwat announced that its consultation on draft pricing decisions for the sector will now be published on July 11, rather than June 12 as originally expected, because of the General Election.

The future of Britain’s biggest water provider Thames Water could hinge on the decision as it faces potential nationalisation after investors rowed back on a promise to provide extra funding, putting the company’s finances in the balance.

The company has a roughly £15 billion debt pile and, along with the other water companies, has become embroiled in a scandal over water pollution.

Thames has asked Ofwat to allow it to hike customer bills by an average of 44% over the next five years to help it invest in its infrastructure and balance the books.

Proposed bills hikes across the rest of the industry range from 14% for Northumbrian Water to 73% at Southern Water.

Despite rampant sewage pollution and substantial planned rises in bills, England’s three biggest listed water companies hiked their dividend payouts to investors and announced more than £700 million in profit last week.

London-listed Pennon Group, Severn Trent and United Utilities all released their financial results for 2023-2024 in the last week, revealing a combined £710 million in profit.

Chichester, currently represented by Education Secretary Gillian Keegan, is one of the marginal constituencies being targeted by the Lib Dems at the General Election.

Both Labour and the Liberal Democrats are hoping to snap up seats in the traditional Conservative heartlands of southern England – the so-called blue wall.

Published: by Radio NewsHub

Written by: Radio News Hub


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