Just when you think it couldn’t get any worse… the return of “Vulcan”

(aka John Redwood)

A Ms Truss campaign insider told the Telegraph that the leadership hopeful thinks that the country’s current economic strategy has “failed” and said she won’t be captured by “Treasury groupthink”. 

The European Research Group (ERG), who are key backers of Ms Truss’ campaign, has tipped Mr Redwood for a role in the Treasury, with one senior member telling The Express that he would be a “superb choice” as Chancellor of the Exchequer. www.bracknellnews.co.uk

No comfort from voices of reason and experience

Liz Truss would “completely crash the public finances” if she pushed ahead with tens of billions of pounds of tax cuts, a senior economist has warned.

Liz Truss’s plan to cut VAT would crash economy, warns expert

Paul Johnson, director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, accused Truss of adopting a “simplistic mantra” of cutting taxes to solve the cost of living crisis. He said the policies being discussed by her team were “quite worrying”.

He told The Times that a proposal to cut VAT was “inappropriate” and risked exacerbating inflation, not taming it. Johnson also said the Bank of England would raise interest rates more quickly if Truss pressed ahead with the cuts….

…Johnson said the economic picture was different from when Gordon Brown announced an emergency VAT cut of 2.5 percentage points in 2009, and questioned the economic reasoning for such a measure.

“It made sense to have a temporary cut in VAT in the financial crisis because there was a huge drop in demand and a big recession without much in the way of inflation,” he said.

“It might reduce inflation temporarily, but it clearly increases it at the point at which the VAT cut is undone.”

He said there was a greater case to raise income tax thresholds, given that the Treasury had expected to generate £8 billion from the “stealth tax” when it was announced this year. As a result of inflation, the freeze in income tax thresholds is set to raise £20 billion.

Johnson said that no matter the tax cuts, support for energy bills would need to be given to people on low and modest incomes and he questioned the need for an immediate slashing of income tax on top of other measures.

“You clearly can’t do all of this without completely crashing the public finances,” he said. “This simplistic mantra that you cut taxes and the economy grows more, that you cut taxes when you have a big deficit and high inflation, and you don’t do it with any other part of the plan, is quite worrying.”

He added that a large deficit could push up borrowing costs. “The markets for a decade have been willing to fund very high deficits. The risk comes if we start on a very different route to other countries and we look riskier than they are,” he said.

George Grylls www.thetimes.co.uk (Extract)

Bold action needed now on energy bills, says Alistair Darling

“You need something significant and substantial and you need it now, because people’s bills are going to start coming in in a few weeks’ time.”

Darling, who served as chancellor under Gordon Brown, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

“If you don’t do that then you have the risks that I’ve been describing, that the economy will slip into recession, with all that entails. And when you’ve got that on top of the fact you’ve got inflation already at very, very high levels we haven’t seen since the 1970s, this is a lethal cocktail, which is why it needs bold action taken by the government now, not fiddling around with small measures that frankly won’t make any difference at all.”

While the government has already offered some support to households, Darling said this was now far from sufficient to meet the scale of the crisis.

He said: “Frankly, the stuff that’s been announced so far might have passed muster earlier this year. It simply won’t do now. You need something far more substantial than that unless you are willing to see substantial damage being done to our economy.”

A lesson from 2008 was that “you’ve got to do more than people expect and you’ve got to do it more quickly than people expect if it’s going to work”, Darling said.

“It’s going to cost money. When I announced the package in 2008 when it was the banking crisis, it amounted in total to about £500bn, but actually we got all of that money back over the following years. So what I think we need to see today from the government, from the new prime minister, is measures that will be big enough to deal with this.”

Peter Walker www.theguardian.com (Extract)

Cranbrook town centre work starts

Spade comes to sod, at last

The decade delay is a result of “leaving it to the market”, unravelled by the “New Guard” at EDDC – Owl

Paul Nero www.radioexe.co.uk

The giant red starfish will be replaced by a town centre (image courtesy: EDDC)

When residents began moving into their spanking new homes in the new town of Cranbrook in East Devon, they didn’t think it would be more than a decade before work began on a town centre.

But a field a quarter of a mile from the main school has been redundant ever since. 

Now, after a series of false dawns, construction will finally begin this work.

East Devon District Council is puffing it up as a “major milestone” although the leader, who wasn’t in place when the tortuous journey began, does make a nod towards the delay.

Cllr Paul Arnott, who is portfolio holder for strategic development and chair of Cranbrook Strategic Delivery Board said: “The people of Cranbrook have been incredibly patient and we’re delighted to learn that the town centre will actually start to become a reality.

The latest plan from East Devon District Council

A consortium of developers, Henry Davidson, Hallam Land Management, Taylor Wimpey and Persimmon will now get cracking on a supermarket, and a children’s day nursery, which will open next year, and high street shops with homes above and a town square that should be ready in 2024.

Separately, East Devon District Council is in the process of acquiring four acres of land so the town centre can accommodate community facilities  such as a health and wellbeing hub (including a GP surgery) and leisure centre.  Devon County Council is also continuing to work on its new community building combining a library, children and youth centres. 

Further aspects of the town centre will include a new town hall, extra care housing and a skate park.  

Cllrs Kevin Blakey, Kim Bloxham and Sam Hawkins, East Devon District Council ward members representing Cranbrook, said: “The three Cranbrook ward members are naturally delighted that the construction work on the town centre is getting under way.

“As we have said previously, a great many people have worked long and hard to draw together all the many threads to the legal agreements that are now complete, and our thanks go to them all. We can now look forward to the land being a hive of activity as the physical creation of our much anticipated town centre takes shape. This is a big moment in the story of Cranbrook!”

This previous plan has been updated

‘It will benefit the powerful’: row over Brixham fish market levelling up plan

A diverse group of sceptics ranging from conservationists to the local yacht club, town councillors and day boat skippers has expressed concern at the bid by Torbay council for £20m of cash from the levelling up fund.

This year a boat called Margaret of Ladram, owned by the biggest fishing company in the port, Waterdance, broke the Brixham port record with a catch that sold for £155,000. Though the vessel is based in Brixham, the fish were caught not off Devon but in the Irish Sea off the Welsh coast.

Steven Morris www.theguardian.com

A scheme to double the size of England’s most lucrative fish market and provide more room for “industrial” trawlers using levelling up funds has been condemned by green campaigners, smaller-scale fishers and leisure boat enthusiasts.

Critics claim the plans for the Devon harbour town of Brixham, which is expected to land a record-breaking £50m worth of fish this year, will lead to more environmentally damaging fishing practices, increase lorry movements and benefit a few powerful businesses rather than improving the town as a whole.

A diverse group of sceptics ranging from conservationists to the local yacht club, town councillors and day boat skippers has expressed concern at the bid by Torbay council for £20m of cash from the levelling up fund.

“It will be good for the big boys who already make shitloads of money,” said Tristan Northway, who skippers a 9-metre fishing boat, Adela, and sells directly from the deck of his vessel. “But it will do nothing for the rest of us and nothing for the town.”

Harry Barton, the chief executive of Devon Wildlife Trust, said the expansion would lead to further damage to the seabed and greater carbon emissions.

“Trawling and dredging are among the most destructive activities that happen in the marine environment,” he said. “The fishing industry is a major contributor to carbon emissions. This is partly from the emissions of the engines but more significantly because dredgers stir up the sediments on the sea floor, resulting in large amounts of carbon being released.”

Richard Spreckley, the commodore of Brixham Yacht Club, said the people who would most benefit were the owners of the port’s beam trawlers, larger boats that drop large, heavy-duty nets attached to steel beams into the water and drag them along the seabed.

Spreckley said he doubted claims that expanding the quay and market would lead to more jobs for local people, pointing out that the boats already had to supplement crews with fishers from the Philippines because they could not find local people to go to sea. “But there are very strong forces in the town that tend to get their way,” he said.

Despite issues around paperwork and bureaucracy that Brexit has thrown up and the soaring price of fuel, Brixham fish market is thriving. Just before Brexit it introduced an online auction system, allowing fish buyers from anywhere in the world to bid for catch, and it credits the change with boosting prices by 20%.

A record £43.5m of fish was sold at the market in 2021, making it the biggest by value in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and it hopes to break the £50m mark this year. On a busy day it can deal with 100 tonnes of fish, with 70% of it trucked to mainland Europe.

At this time of year the fish boxes in the market are full of a dazzling variety of fish – bass, brill, rock salmon, john dory, gurnard, megrim – while the cuttlefish season, worth £9m year, earning the catch the nickname “Brixham gold”, will begin shortly.

The fish comes from far and wide. This year a boat called Margaret of Ladram, owned by the biggest fishing company in the port, Waterdance, broke the Brixham port record with a catch that sold for £155,000. Though the vessel is based in Brixham, the fish were caught not off Devon but in the Irish Sea off the Welsh coast.

Such has been the success of the Brixham market that fishers based hundreds of miles away, from ports such as Hastings in East Sussex and Aberystwyth in mid Wales, send their catch to be sold there before it is shipped back out on lorries across Europe.

Duncan Kenny, of the Brixham conservation organisation Tide, who lives on the harbourside, said: “Already we see and hear trucks coming in day and night. It’s madness. I would rather levelling up money be put into improving healthcare, investing in schools, transport. Fishing is a huge part of our heritage but we need to do it more sustainably.”

Colin Moore, a spokesperson for Ocean Rebellion in south Devon, said the campaign group had run one demonstration against large-scale fishing in Brixham and planned others. “Levelling up money must not be used to boost industrial fishing,” he said.

Brixham Trawler Agents, which owns the market, and Waterdance declined to speak about the plans, but the local Conservative MP Anthony Mangnall said levelling up money would boost not just the fishers but the whole town. He said Waterdance was investing in new more environmentally friendly equipment such as a new beam gear called the Sumwing, designed to have less contact with the seabed.

Some critics of the scheme flag up that Brixham Trawler Agents and Waterdance each gave £2,500 to Mangnall’s 2019 general election campaign. He declared this, and he told the Guardian that he did not favour the two companies over others in the town. The bid is being led by Torbay council, which is led by Liberal Democrat and independent councillors.

Jim Funnell, a local writer who campaigns on social justice issues and has formally complained about the levelling up bid, said: “This development will benefit the most powerful people in the town. The more I question, the more questions it raises. The questions intersect with some of the biggest issues of our times – social inequality, the environmental crisis and a lack of aspiration to think beyond the simplistic, easy-to-reach option.”

Brixham town council has expressed reservations about the bid. It has supported the application but said in a statement: “Concerns were raised that the [bid] only supports one core commercial area of Brixham. Whilst Brixham is widely recognised as a large fishing port, it is also a tourist destination and a place to live.”

Torbay council pointed out that the money would support plans to grow the photonics and microelectronics industry in the area as well as the fish market and quay. It said: “These developments could bring significant benefits to Torbay. Torbay council is aware there are questions being raised regarding the environmental impacts of extending Brixham fish quay and market and will continue to consult, engage and work with key stakeholders to ensure the right scheme is delivered for the area.”

Simon Jupp’s low profile over the summer explained.

Owl expected Simon to be hard at work rooting for Rishi, apparently not.

Owl was surprised that Simon let Richard Foord hold centre stage on Budleigh beach to talk about sewage pollution. Obviously not important to the hospitality sector so close to Simon’s heart.

Even Alison Hernandez has had to cosy up to Richard Foord to find an East Devon photo op.

Here is the explanation: he has been working on constituents’ casework. 

Oddly, though, he doesn’t mention the cost of living crisis  – Owl

Summer recess allows time to work on queries and casework

Simon Jupp www.exmouthjournal.co.uk

Summer recess allows MPs to spend more time to carry out important constituency work. It’s the best bit of the job and one of the reasons why I opened a constituency office in Exmouth.

Recess also allows hardworking Parliament staff such as the clerks, doorkeepers, catering and cleaning teams to take a much deserved break. The House of Commons remains open to visitors during recess periods, giving more people an opportunity to see the home of our democracy. If you’re interested in a tour of Parliament, please do get in touch with me.

August can be something of a quiet month in the news, especially now as it is not until 5th September when the new PM is announced. My small team and I will continue to work hard during this summer lull.  

At the moment, my team and I are currently working on record amounts of queries and casework, so I wanted to talk about the sort of work we do day-in-day out that is not made public.

To give an example of what the email inbox might bring in on any given day, this might include queries about the Passport Office, about driving licences, about Ukrainian visa applications, planning applications, GP appointments, and energy bills. We cannot always solve a problem but we always try to do whatever we can to help, to advise, or to raise through official channels.

Some Ukrainian visa issues are ongoing and this is often involves chasing up the Home Office or checking up on details. These issues are time sensitive so I am continuing to meet with Home Office officials each week on behalf of Homes for Ukraine hosts in East Devon. If you are a host still waiting for a decision and permission to travel letter for those you are sponsoring, please get in touch.

 

The link between pollution of the Axe and Liz Truss cuts to farm inspections

Liz Truss allowed farmers to pollute England’s rivers after ‘slashing red tape’, say campaigners

Helena Horton www.theguardian.com 

Liz Truss is responsible for farmers being allowed to dump a catastrophic “chemical cocktail” of pollutants into Britain’s rivers, according to environmental campaigners.

This has meant agricultural waste now outstrips sewage as the leading danger to England’s waterways.

Truss boasted of cutting farm inspections in a parliamentary exchange in 2015 when she was environment secretary. This allowed farmers to dump waste, including pesticides and animal faeces, into rivers.

“We have seen a reduction of 34,000 farm inspections a year and an 80% reduction in red tape from Defra [Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs]. That is vital for our £100bn food and farming industry,” Truss, who held the environment post from 2014 to 2016, told parliament.

“A future Conservative government would continue to bear down on red tape. We are considering pilots for landowners and farmers to manage watercourses themselves, to get rid of a lot of bureaucracy.”

Because of cuts to the Environment Agency and Truss’s policy of trimming official rules and inspections, farmers were able to dump waste in their local watercourses without much fear of being caught and fined. Campaigners say this has had dire consequences for England’s rivers.

For example, in the Wye valley, home to one of Europe’s largest concentrations of intensive livestock production, Lancaster University found there were 3,000 tonnes of excess phosphorus caused by agriculture seeping into the valley’s waterways.

Other rivers polluted by agriculture include the Axe, which flows through Dorset, Somerset and Devon, the Derwent in Yorkshire, the Ehen in Cumbria, and the Test and Itchen rivers in Hampshire.

Louisa Casson, head of food and forests at Greenpeace UK, said: “Letting industrial farms unleash a chemical cocktail into our rivers and get away with it has been catastrophic for our environment. Liz Truss’s crusade against red tape has been a key contributor and, ultimately, our wildlife and the public have been left wading through the resulting filth in the rivers they cherish.”

The Guardian revealed last week that Truss presided over huge cuts to the Environment Agency’s sewage monitoring system. She implemented a £24m cut from a government grant for environmental protection – including surveillance of water companies to prevent the dumping of raw sewage – between 2014-15 and 2016-17, according to the National Audit Office.

During Truss’s tenure at Defra, the department was taken to court by Fish Legal and the WWF over a change to the voluntary reporting of farm waste dumping. After a judicial review, the Environment Agency inspected the river Axe. It found that from the winter of 2016, 95% of farms had not complied with slurry storage regulations and 49% were polluting the river.

A spokesperson for the Wildlife Trusts explained: “Clearly, cutting farm inspections has left a legacy of significant water pollution.”

Campaigners say Truss’s policy meant that farm visits dwindled for years, and in 2018-19 inspectors visited only 403 farms to check for activities and practices that could cause water pollution. There are 106,000 registered farm businesses in England. Campaign group WildFish calculated that at that rate, farms could expect an inspection every 263 years.

Following the cuts in inspections, by 2019 agriculture had overtaken the water industry as the sector responsible for the greatest number of failures against water targets.

“Farm inspections are not designed to catch farmers out,” said Ali Morse, water policy manager at the Wildlife Trusts. “They ensure that our rivers and seas aren’t polluted, and that valuable soils and nutrients stay in fields and out of rivers. This is in the interests of the farming sector as much as our environment.”

Liz Truss was contacted but declined to comment.

Is Jacob Rees-Mogg about to sell off No 10 Downing Street?

Tory Efficiency minister Jacob Rees-Mogg is planning to sell underutilised government offices in London and the Prime Minister hasn’t used No 10 recently.

He has been working remotely, very remotely. -Owl

[Efficiency-Mogg is reported recently to have spent £1,332 of taxpayers’ cash travelling to, from and around Wrexham by chauffeur-driven limousine – instead of getting there by train, which would have cost £98. ]

Jacob Rees-Mogg to sell London offices as civil servants work from home

Nadeem Badshah www.theguardian.com

Jacob Rees-Mogg has revealed he is planning to sell off £1.5bn worth of government offices in London due to the proportion of civil servants continuing to work from home.

The minister for Brexit opportunities and government efficiency will publish a strategy next week that includes selling property assets over the next three years, with staff working in fewer buildings as part of a new network of government “hubs”, the Telegraph reported.

The proposal is part of a government property strategy aimed at raising £2bn in savings from property sales and efficiencies, and also encompasses the use of modern building materials and energy sources.

Rees-Mogg, who has orchestrated a long-running campaign to encourage civil servants to stop working from home after coronavirus restrictions were scrapped, told the Sunday Telegraph: “We have seen over the last year that expensive office space in central London has been underutilised. Why should the taxpayer be made to fork out for half-empty buildings?

“But moving civil servants to our beautiful counties and towns through the Places for Growth programme will benefit everyone, giving civil servants a better quality of life and helping economic growth outside the capital.

“We are cutting the cost of the public estate so that we can return money to the taxpayer. All spending on government property needs to be justified.”

The Conservative MP for North East Somerset added that transferring civil service jobs out of London would “allow greater savings and mean the government is closer to the communities it serves”.

In April, it emerged that Rees-Mogg had written to cabinet ministers urging them to coerce staff into a “rapid return to the office” and left notes in empty Whitehall workspaces with the message: “I look forward to seeing you in the office very soon.” Labour MPs called the move at the time “patronising” and “passive-aggressive”.

It also emerged that Rees-Mogg was conducting “spot checks” at offices to monitor occupancy rates with senior bosses told to publish figures on the proportion of government staff working from the office.

The minister has also condemned the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) after staff told bosses at the regulator that two days a week in the office is the most they can cope with.

“The FCA has an important job and any sensible person would recognise that spending only two days a week in the office will harm performance,” he told the Telegraph. “We know that people work better when they are together.”

Liz Truss ponders 5% VAT cut amid cost of living crisis

Liz Truss is considering whether to reduce VAT by 5% across the board, which could save families £1,300 a year, it was reported.

Nadeem Badshah www.theguardian.com

The foreign secretary is understood to have discussed the move with her advisers but no final decisions will be taken until the Conservative leadership contest concludes on 5 September, according to the Sunday Telegraph.

The Treasury is expected to present the new prime minister with plans modelled on Gordon Brown’s response to the 2008 financial crisis, where VAT was reduced from 20% to 17.5% for a year, as part of a series of proposals amid soaring energy bills.

Energy bills for a typical household will rise to £3,549 a year on 1 October, when a new price cap is introduced, it was announced on Friday.

If the rate of VAT is cut by up to 5% from the current standard rate of 20%, it would be the largest ever reduction.

Truss’s campaign has begun drawing up plans for her “emergency budget” but a source told the Telegraph that it “would not be right for her to announce her plans before she has even been elected prime minister or seen all the facts”.

A 5% cut would cost an estimated £3.2bn a month or £38bn to keep in place for one year, according to analysis by the Institute for Fiscal Studies research institute.

It would also reduce inflation temporarily by about 2%. Last month, Rishi Sunak announced plans to temporarily scrap VAT on household energy bills if elected prime minister.

A Treasury spokesperson said the government was making the “necessary preparations to ensure a new government has options to deliver additional support as quickly as possible”, adding: “No major fiscal decisions will be taken until the new prime minister is in post.”

Colyford could get its own council

Residents in the historic East Devon village of Colyford could get their own council after locals say they do not feel properly represented under the current system. 

Philip Churm, local democracy reporter www.radioexe.co.uk

Villagers submitted a petition to East Devon District Council (EDDC) to carry out a ‘community governance review’; a process which can lead to the alteration or replacement of an existing parish council.

At present Colyford village is covered by Colyton Parish with 13 councillors but many people living south of Colyton say they feel left out of the democratic process.

Julian Thompson is one of the villagers driving the campaign and explained why they petitioned for a new council. 

He said: “People who are living here were finding they weren’t able to have a fair, democratic governance of their local services and things they wanted to get done in the village to the current council, because the current council always out-voted the number of Colyford parish councillors who were sitting on it.”

Mr Thompson said villagers felt the proportion of funds distributed across the existing parish unfairly favoured people in Colyton. 

“Because of the lack of democracy and transparency and clarity about where the Colyford tax had gone, it was very difficult to feel the local people were empowered and be able to look after their community,” he said. 

Mr Thompson and other supporters drafted a four-year financial plan and listed the benefits of having a village council for the community, including:

The village council will recognise the unique and historic identity of the ancient borough of Colyford from 1237 – one of the largest communities in East Devon without its own council. 

Residents will have access to a council that will work hard on their behalf – “by Colyford, for Colyford”. 

Money raised through council tax by Colyford residents will fund improvements in Colyford and not elsewhere. 

Residents will have greater influence on local planning matters, address their unique issues on traffic control and safety and build rapport with the local grammar school. 

Former RAF Air commodore and Falklands veteran Julian Thompson said they have considered all the necessary aspects of the proposal which, if successful, would result in the election of new councillors next May. 

“I have taken a very strict military approach to introducing new capability based on a military line of development,” he said.

“And from that I’ve taken all the inputs from the National Association of Local Councils and Devon village councils, EDDC, other parishes and built a sort of ‘how to introduce initial operating capability for local council’.” 

EDDC independent councillor for Axminster, Sarah Jackson, who is portfolio holder for democracy, transparency and communications said: “It is evident from the recent consultation that the residents of Colyford feel a sense of identity separate from that of Colyton and a clear desire to be self-governed via the formation of a new parish council, and so I am pleased to see this governance review progress to the next stage. 

“It is, however, important that the proposal is now refined and fine-tuned. Part of this will be to determine where exactly the boundary between the parishes will fall. 

“I strongly encourage all those who are consulted on the draft proposal to fully engage with the process so that your views are considered and taken on board.”

The next stage in the process would be to consider submissions and prepare final proposals which could then be submitted to EDDC cabinet in November and full council by December. 

If passed, elections under the new arrangements would take place in May 2023.  

Hundreds of coastal overflow sites ‘not included’ in UK government sewage plan

Government plans to reduce sewage spills in English waters fail to include hundreds of storm overflows into estuaries and the sea, according to new analysis.

Saphora Smith www.independent.co.uk 

In the government’s draft storm overflow discharge reduction plan the only coastal overflows that must cut spills are those near designated bathing sites, but it’s not clear what distance is classified as “near” one,  according to the Marine Conservation Society.

Its analysis found that around 600 coastal sites therefore won’t have to reduce the number of times they spill sewage into the sea, some of which could be near Marine Protected Areas.

Meanwhile, for inland waters and designated bathing waters water companies must not discharge sewage more than an average of 10 rainfall events per year by 2050, according to the draft targets. A rainfall event is up to 12 hours of rain.

“Defra can’t provide a list to us of the storm overflows which aren’t going to included [in the targets] – which is ridiculous in itself – so these overflows could be discharging into marine protected areas, shellfish waters or other beaches which are not designated as bathing waters,” said Rachel Wyatt, water quality policy and advocacy manager at the Marine Conservation Society.

The “uncontrolled” dumping of sewage will have a direct impact on England’s estuaries and seas which are “already known to be failing to meet key water quality targets,” said Ms Wyatt. “And there’s nothing to stop water companies from diverting more sewage to these overflows to meet upstream targets.”

The target of 2050 for inland waters and bathing sites is also “nowhere near soon enough,” she added. “Our environment can not wait another 28 years for this impact to stop.”

In 2021, untreated sewage was spilt 66,286 times, for a total of 440,508 hours, within one km of marine protected areas, which are home to some of the most important habitats and marine life in the country, according to the Marine Conservation Society.

Sewage contains bacteria, viruses, harmful chemicals and microplastics which can impact marine life. Microplastics, for example, if ingested by marine life can damage animals’ digestive systems, and even stop them from feeding, resulting in impacts on their growth, development, reproduction and lifespan, it said.

The government consulted on its storm overflow discharge reduction plan earlier this year and is due to publish its final stratgey next month.

Amid the recent scrutiny of the UK’s wastewater disposal, Water Minister Steve Double has said the government has been “clear” that water companies’ reliance on overflows is “unacceptable” and that they must significantly reduce how much sewage they discharge as a priority.”

The Marine Conservation Society’s analysis comes as three French MEPs said the UK was putting the environment, fishermen’s livelihoods and public health at risk by pumping sewage into the sea.

In a joint statement, the European politicians accused Britain of neglecting its environmental commitments made during the Brexit process. A government spokesperson said it was “simply not true” that the UK had “exempted ourselves” of strict targets on water quality.

Meanwhile, The Independent revealed this week that all wastewater companies in England and Wales have failed to meet their targets to tackle pollution of sewage floods.

Public warnings were also issued in the UK about pollution at more than 50 beaches after wastewater firms discharged sewage into the sea and new figures revealed that sewage has been dumped into England and Wales’ natural environment more than a million times in the past five years.

A Defra spokesperson said: “We will be setting out proposals imminently that will provide a comprehensive plan to tackle the issue of combined sewage overflows . We have been clear to water companies that action is long overdue.”