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Tuesday, February 13, 2024

Targeting the bosses

At last, Ministers are to ban bonuses for water company bosses in England and Wales who fail to prevent illegal sewage spills that pollute rivers, lakes and seas.

The Guardian reports that this new policy, which many campaigners – including Labour and the Liberal Democrats – have been lobbying the government to implement, is to be introduced by the government following public outrage over the impact and scale of recent illegal raw sewage discharges:

The environment secretary, Steve Barclay, is proposing to block payouts to executives of firms that commit criminal acts of water pollution, starting with bonuses in the 2024-25 financial year from April.

Bosses took home more than £26m in bonuses, benefits and incentives over the last four years, despite illegally dumping vast amounts of sewage in waterways.

Senior executives from five of the 11 water companies that deal with sewage pocketed bonuses last year. Executives at the other six firms declined bonuses after public anger.

At the same time, companies have announced plans to increase consumers’ bills by about £156 a year to pay for investment that is aimed at preventing 140,000 annual sewage overflow spills.

Regulator Ofwat will consult on details of the proposed ban later this year but Barclay said the sanction should apply to any company that had committed “serious criminal breaches”.

A bonus could be banned when there has been a successful prosecution for the two most serious categories of pollution, such as causing significant pollution at a bathing site or conservation area, or where a company has been found guilty of serious management failings, according to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

It could apply to chief executives and all executive board members.

If taken forward, Ofwat would implement the measures by changing the conditions of water company licences.

Let's hope that hitting them where it hurts will be enough to encourage the water companies to finally tackle the pollution they are causing all over the UK.
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