‘Fat cat’ water firm bosses earn £15m as amount of raw sewage dumped in rivers rockets



Nine water industry fatcats received more than £15million in pay and bonuses last year as the number of times their firms pumped raw sewage into our seas and rivers rose 37%.

The average wage for bosses at the water and sewage companies in England was nearly £1.7m and their standard salary rise was 27%, a Mirror probe has revealed.

None of them took a pay cut.

It comes amid an outcry over pollution, with sewage discharges at bathing sites up 88% in 2020.

Yet the nine companies made nearly £2.8billion in profits in 2020/21 and four paid £776m in dividends to shareholders.

These four were among the six worst polluters, discharging raw sewage through storm overflows for 1.9million hours in 2020 – equivalent to one sewer discharging non-stop for 217 years.

Sewage discharges at bathing sites surged 88% in 2020
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Supplied)

Hugo Tagholm, of Surfers Against Sewage, claimed the bosses earn more than Prime Ministers “while presiding over a culture of pollution, obfuscation and borderline illegality”.

He added: “Why should these CEOs be rewarded for playing a leading role in destroying environments we all rely on?”

The pay packs for the nine chiefs totaled £15,110,400 – enough to employ 184 MPs or 589 new nurses.

The biggest earners were Steve Mogford, CEO of United Utilities, on £2.9m, and Severn Trent’s CEO Liv Garfield, who earned £2.8m.

Their firms racked up more hours of sewage than any others in 2020 and missed sewer discharge flooding targets, said regulator the Office of Water Services.

It found only three firm hit “internal sewer flooding targets” in 2020 – Anglian Water, South West Water and Wessex Water.

Industry body Water UK said: “Financial remuneration is a matter for individual companies but is always linked to delivering the best possible service for customers while protecting and enhancing the environment.”

Hugo Tagholm of Surfers Against Sewage
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Greg Martin/Cornwall Live)

A spokesman said it recognized the need for change, adding: “That is why we are pushing Government and Ofwat to allow the accelerated investment we need over the next decade to bring about the transformation in our water environment we all want to see.”

The Environment Agency and Ofwat launched a probe after several firms admitted many of their treatment works may be discharging sewage in breach of permits.

It was also reported firms are releasing raw sewage into rivers more than 1,000 times a day.

More than a third of discharges happened where there was no heavy rain, suggesting a breach of permits.

Raw sewage was discharged into rivers and seas on more than 400,000 occasions in 2020, totaling 3.1 million hours, said the EA.

Sewage overflow incidents, which typically happen when heavy rainfall overwhelms the drainage system, will be a mixture of legal and illegal dumping.

If a certain amount of wastewater is being treated, it is allowed.

More than a third of discharges happened where there was no heavy rain
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Alamy Live News.)

Emma Howard Boyd, chair of the EA, wants penalties for environmental crime to go up significantly.

She said directors of firms found guilty of “repeated, deliberate or reckless breaches” should be struck off or jailed.

While dividend payments fell last year, Ofwat found most water companies failed to set out how these were linked to “delivery for customers and the environment”.

David Black, Ofwat’s interim chief executive, said: “It is vital water companies are financially resilient and transparent about their financial decisions.”

Our probe found the major shareholders of England’s water networks include the governments of Singapore, China, Abu Dhabi and Kuwait but not the UK’s. Scottish Water is owned by the Scottish Government while Welsh Water is a not-for-profit firm.

The nine water companies were privatized in 1989 without debt but in the last 30 years their owners have burdened them with £56bn of borrowings.

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Cat Hobbs, of anti-privatization group We Own It, said: “It’s disgusting CEOs and shareholders are being rewarded like this when they’ve poured ever more raw sewage into rivers and seas.

The Government is letting these companies rip us off, destroy our environment – ​​and receive millions for the privilege.

“It doesn’t have to be this way. Scottish Water invests 35% more because money isn’t flowing to shareholders. Bills are lower and their rivers and seas are cleaner.”

But Water UK said many of the biggest water firms have not paid dividends to investors for years.

It added: “Those that have been paid have mostly gone to pension funds and institutions.”

Water UK said water companies provided unprecedented customer support during the pandemic and more than one million families are getting help with bills.

The ‘fat cat’ water bosses

Liz Barber is the Chief Executive of Yorkshire Water

Yorkshire Water

CEO Liz Barber received £1,316,000 in pay and bonuses in 2020/21 – up 13% (£1,163,000 in 2019/20)

Operating profits – £241.4m in 2020/21 – up 14% (£212.4m in 2019/20)

No dividends from parent company Kelda Group in 2020/21 or 2019/20

Sewage spill events in 2020 – 65,083, duration – 420,419 hours

Kelda Group, which owns Yorkshire Water, is owned by shareholders including the investment fund of the government of Singapore, and the pension fund for government employees in New South Wales, Australia.

A Yorkshire Water spokesperson said: “Yorkshire Water’s shareholders have received no dividends in the last five years, and none are forecast for the coming years. In that time over £300m, which could have gone to shareholders, has been reinvested in renewable energy generation at waste water treatment works, reductions in pollution and cutting leakage.”

Liv Garfield is the Chief Executive of Severn Trent plc
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GettyImages)

Severn Trent

CEO Liv Garfield received £2,807,800 in pay and bonuses this year – up 2% (£2,765,100 in 2019/20)

Operating profits – £470.7m in 2020/21 – down 17% (£568.2m in 2019/20)

Dividends paid – £240.2m in 2020/21 – up 5% (£228.4m in 2019/20)

Sewage spill events in 2020 – 60,982, duration – 558,699 hours

A Severn Trent spokesperson said: “We are proud that we have been consistently recognized as a leading UK water company and awarded the very highest 4 star status by the Environment Agency because of the care we take with our rivers and the environment.

“We take our role in protecting the environment and investing in our region to benefit the communities we serve extremely seriously. In the last year alone we have invested almost ten times more in the environment than in the amount distributed to our shareholders.”

Steve Mogford, chief executive of United Utilities water company
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Liverpool echo)

United Utilities

CEO Steve Mogford received £2,940,000 in pay and bonuses in 2020/21 – up 11% (£2,654,000 in 2019/20)

Operating profits – £602.1m in 2020/21 – down 18% (£732.1m in 2019/20)

Dividends paid – £291.9m in 2020/21 – up 3% (£284.5m in 2019/20)

Sewage spill events – 113,940, duration – 726,450 hours

CEO Peter Simpson received £2,074,647 in pay and bonuses

Anglian Water

CEO Peter Simpson received £2,074,647 in pay and bonuses in 2020/21 – up 62% (£1,282,236 in 2019/20).

Operating profits – £391.6m in 2020/21 – down 2% (£399.1m in 2019/20)

No dividends paid in 2020/21 or 2019/20

Sewage spill events in 2020 – 17,428, duration – 170,547 hours (one of three water companies to hit sewer flooding target in 2020/21)

Anglian water owner Osprey is owned by investors including the Abu Dhabi sovereign wealth fund the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA), as well as pension funds in Canada, Australia and the UK.

An Anglian Water spokesperson said: “In no way do we dump raw sewage into rivers. CSOs are permitted pressure release valves, designed to protect homes and businesses from flooding during heavy rainfall. Because of the job they do, and when used properly, the majority of what comes out is rainwater, not raw sewage.

“Our 2020 data compared with 2019 shows, we had 29% fewer spills, despite installing almost 300 more monitors.

“We have a proven track record of investing in environmental protection and improvement and any profit should be considered alongside the scale of our investment programme. Between 2020-2025 we’ll invest almost £6billion – more than almost any other business in the east of England. Our shareholders, who are predominantly pension funds, including those of local authorities and civil servants across the UK, have not taken a dividend since 2018 to allow us to invest in resilient infrastructure and to protect the environment.”

Sarah Bentley is Thames Water’s Chief Executive Officer
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Thames Water)

Thames Water

CEO Sarah Bentley received £1,230,000 in pay and bonuses this year.

Operating profit £488.8m in 2020/21 – down 15% (£577.5m in 2019/20)

No dividends paid in 2020/21 or 2019/20
Sewage spill events in 2020 – 18,443, duration – 215,886 hours

Thames Water’s biggest investors include the Chinese national sovereign wealth fund, a subsidiary of the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority and, until recently, a subsidiary of Kuwait’s sovereign wealth, as well as pensions funds in Canada, Australia, the Netherlands and the UK.

A Thames Water spokesperson said: “Our aim will always be to try and do the right thing for rivers and for the communities who love and value them. It’s our view that discharges of untreated sewage are simply unacceptable, even when they are legally permitted, and we’ll work with the government, Ofwat and the Environment Agency to accelerate work to stop them being necessary.

“We have an unprecedented amount of investment directed towards safeguarding our rivers and streams including spending more than £1.25 billion at our sewage treatment works during our current five year business plan to deliver a number of benefits including increasing capacity, better monitor readings, and efficiencies in our operations.

“We have a long way to go – and we certainly can’t do it on our own – but the ambition is clear.”

Heidi Mottram, left, is the chief executive of Northumbrian Water
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Newcastle Chronicle)

Northumbrian Water

CEO Heidi Mottram received £897,000 in pay and bonuses in 2020/21 – up 8% (£833,000 in 2019/20)

Operating profits – £171.1m in 2020/21 – down 49% (£336.7m in 2019/20)

No dividends paid in 2020/21 or 2019/20

Sewage spill events – 32,497, duration – 178,229 hours

Northumbrian Water is wholly owned by CK Hutchison Holdings, based in Hong Kong and registered offshore in the Cayman Islands.


Susan Davy from South West Water
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South West Water)

South West Water

CEO Susan Davey received £1,724,000 in pay and bonuses this year – up 6% (£1,629,000 in 2019/20)

Operating profits – £157m in 2020/21 – down 14% (£183m in 2019/20)

Dividend from parent company Pennon Group plc – £184.3m in 2020/21 – up 7% (£172.6m in 2019/20)

Sewage spill events in 2020 – 42,053, duration – 375,372 hours (one of three water companies to hit sewer flooding target in 2020/21)

Colin Skellett received £1,038,000 in pay and bonuses this year
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Michael Lloyd Photography)

WessexWater

CEO Colin Skellett received £1,038,000 in pay and bonuses this year, of which £520,000 was for his role at Wessex Water – up 110% (£493,000 in 2019/20)

Operating profits – £167.3m in 2020/21 – down 21% (£212.5m last year)

Dividends paid – £59.5m in 2020/21 – down 32% (£88m last year)

Sewage spill events in 2020 – 28,994, duration – 237,035 hours (one of three water companies to hit sewer flooding target in 2020/21)

Wessex Water is wholly owned by Malysia’s YTL Corporation and the ultimate parent company is offshore in Jersey

Southern Water’s CEO Ian McAulay
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Western Mail)

Southern Water

CEO Ian McAulay received £1,082,400 in pay and bonuses in 2020/21 – up 1% (£1,068,700 in 2019/20)

Operating profits – £138.8 in 2020/21 – down 35% (£212.3m in 2019/20)

No dividends paid in 2020/21 or 2019/20

Sewage spill events – 19,782, duration 197,213 hours

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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