Raw sewage ‘pumped into English bathing waters 25,000 times in 2021’

Untreated sewage was discharged into England’s coastal bathing waters for more than 160,000 hours last year, according to figures collated by the Liberal Democrats to mark the start of the summer sea-swimming season.

Sandra Laville www.theguardian.com 

Data compiled by the party using Environment Agency figures on 2021 discharges shows that water companies released raw sewage 25,000 times into designated bathing waters off the English coast.

Figures collated by the campaign group Top of the Poops reveal that when also including the bathing waters in Wales, water companies released untreated sewage for 217,804 hours.

The bathing water designations – which were created by the EU – are supposed to highlight the country’s cleanest and safest waters for the public. The quality of the water is publicly identified on signs at the bathing beaches, ranging from excellent to poor.

The longest discharges into bathing waters were carried out by United Utilities, which released untreated sewage into sea-swimming spots in its area for almost 75,000 hours. The company’s worst-hit bathing water site was Morecambe South beach.

Southern Water, which was last year fined a record £90m for spilling billions of litres of raw sewage into Hampshire and Kent coastal waters, was responsible for 20,367 hours of untreated sewage discharges into designated bathing spots off the coast in their area.

South West Water discharged sewage into bathing beauty spots for 43,901 hours, with their longest discharge released at Ilfracombe’s Wildersmouth Beach, lasting 1,833 hours.

The figures were released as the official sea-swimming season opened on Sunday. This marks the start of annual monitoring of bathing-water quality, which helps to inform the public about the water at beaches they visit. The season lasts until September.

Tim Farron, the Liberal Democrats rural affairs spokesperson, said: “It is now or never to save families from swimming in sewage-infested waters this summer.

“Children should be free to enjoy Britain’s great coastlines and lakes, yet Conservative ministers are letting water companies get away with shameful sewage dumps. This is an environmental scandal.”

The data was released as many parts of the UK prepare to go to the polls on Thursday to vote in local elections.

The Liberal Democrats have called for a sewage tax on water companies’ profits to be used to clean up coastlines, rivers and lakes.

Environment Agency data shows that in 2021 water companies released raw sewage into all coastal waters and rivers in England for more than 2.7m hours. The Lib Dems said that in the same year the firms made £2.8bn in operating profits and paid out £27m in bonuses to senior executives.

Hugo Tagholm, chief executive of the campaigning charity Surfers Against Sewage, said: “Water companies are getting away with blue murder – repeatedly dumping raw sewage into areas of special recreational interest, with seeming impunity.

“Our great beach-loving public shouldn’t have to swim or surf the gauntlet 0f sewage, pathogens and pharmaceuticals that are pumped out through water company pipes. Surfers Against Sewage has been challenging the water industry for decades, calling for them to put people and planet before excessive profits and executive bonuses. We demand a new decade of ambition to clean up and protect all our bathing waters and blue spaces.”

Cabinet Office was warned parties were breaking law

Sue Gray’s report into lockdown-breaking parties will expose emails revealing widespread “premeditation” by civil servants and Downing Street staff who knew they were breaking the law.

Caroline Wheeler, Harry Yorke www.thetimes.co.uk 

The revelation comes as it emerged yesterday that the latest Metropolitan Police questionnaires have been sent out, and relate to the leaving party of Lee Cain, the prime minister’s former director of communications, on November 13, 2020.

Gray’s report, on hold until Scotland Yard has completed its investigations, is expected to be highly critical of Boris Johnson for attending some events and for the culture in No 10 under his leadership.

A senior official familiar with the contents said the findings would be “difficult for everyone”.

One source has suggested the report will leave Johnson, who has already been fined for attending an event to mark his 56th birthday, with no option but to resign.

An official said: “The most shocking thing Sue’s report has uncovered is a series of emails which expose the extent to which the parties were premeditated and the rules were being wilfully broken. She is also concerned by the lack of contrition shown by those who have been found to have broken the rules.”

It is understood that the most egregious event in terms of premeditation was to mark the departure of Hannah Young, a No 10 private secretary. It took place on June 18, 2020, with 20 people gathering in a room close to the cabinet secretary’s office in 70 Whitehall and was described by officials as “raucous”. Last month it emerged that Helen MacNamara, the former director-general of the propriety and ethics team at the Cabinet Office, had attended and received a £50 fixed penalty notice.

It was also alleged that MacNamara had brought a karaoke machine to the gathering, which ended with a brawl between two staff.

It has now been claimed that an email exchange, details of which have been shared with this newspaper, showed that staff discussed the gathering in advance and were warned by officials that it might be a breach of the rules.

There was said to be a debate as to what type of room was best suited to hold a gathering while coronavirus restrictions were in place. The rooms in No 10, where Young had worked, were considered too small one source claimed. A second source provided an alternative explanation, alleging that Martin Reynolds, then Johnson’s principal private secretary, had been told by senior aides in No 10 that he could not organise an event there.

As the email exchange continued, one respondent is said to have questioned whether the event was a good idea. According to one familiar with the incident, they are said to have asked: “Is this wise?”

It was at this point that MacNamara is said to have stepped in and assured others on the email chain that she had resolved the issue. According to insiders, she gave approval for a room to be used in the Cabinet Office.

In the end, the event is believed to have begun in a communal area on the ground floor of the Cabinet Office, before “migrating” to a room close to the cabinet secretary’s office.

Gray is also understood to have copies of another email, which shows that a very senior official warned Reynolds against inviting 100 staff to a “bring your own booze” party in the No 10 garden on May 20, 2020. Police have started issuing fines for the party, which Johnson attended with Carrie Symonds, then his fiancée, and more than 50 Downing Street staff.

“I can see how tractor search led to porn” says Tory Councillor Colin Slade

This story seems to get murkier and murkier – Owl 

Devon county councillor and friend of Neil Parish, Colin Slade (Tiverton), has said he can see how searching for tractors on the internet could lead to a porn site.

www.bbc.co.uk (Click on site to watch the interview clip)

According to other news reports (including Mirror and Telegraph) Neil Parish’s allies have speculated that he was searching for a “Claas Dominator” tractor. Though Neil hаsn’t responded to the suggestion yet.

[Owl is under the impression, however, that these are a brand of combine harvester, rather than tractor. But must stress Owl has no expertise in such matters]

“a few bad apples”

Commons Speаker Sir Lindsаy Hoyle hаs cаlled for “rаdicаl” reform to Pаrliаment’s working prаctices in the wаke of the scаndаl, which is just the lаtest in а string of bullying аnd sexuаl misconduct аllegаtions аnd аllegаtions involving MPs.

However, Business Secretаry Kwаsi Kwаrteng dismissed clаims thаt Pаrliаment hаs а widespreаd culture of misogyny, clаiming thаt the problems аre due to “а few bаd аpples.”

“I don’t think there’s а culture of misogyny,” Mr Kwаrteng sаid on Sundаy to Sky News’ Sophy Ridge. I believe the issue we fаce is thаt people work in а very demаnding environment with long hours, аnd I believe thаt most people аre аwаre of their limits аnd how to behаve respectfully.”

“I think we hаve to distinguish between а few bаd аpples, people who behаve bаdly, аnd the generаl environment,” the Cаbinet minister told the BBC’s Sundаy Morning show.

Claire Wright “I have no wish to split left of centre vote”, rules herself out of by-election

“I have looked into the possibility of running, but it is very obvious that the Libdems stand the best chance of winning the non Conservative vote and as a firm believer (in the absence of PR) in progressive alliances, it’s important that voters galvanise around the candidate most likely to win”

Read latest comments on facebook.