Boss of UK’s most polluting water firm made £1.4m from shares before retiring

The chief executive of the UK’s most polluting water company made £1.4m from the sale of shares in the business before his retirement, the Guardian can reveal.

One of privatisation’s winners, most of us are losers! – Owl

PS With all this rain around yesterday and today, best stay away from our rivers.

Helena Horton 

Politicians have called for water companies to be taxed to the extent that they cannot pay huge sums to CEOs after it was revealed that Steve Mogford of United Utilities retired on 31 March and in the months beforehand sold his shares for just under £1.4m.

According to Environment Agency data, the most polluting water company in England last year was United Utilities. One of the company’s pipes spilled sewage into the River Ellen, near the Lake District, for nearly 7,000 hours last year.

The data also showed that 10 of the country’s 20 pipes that spilled the most sewage in 2022 were owned by United Utilities, which provides water to the north-west and Lake District.

The Liberal Democrats’ environment spokesperson, Tim Farron, said: “As the sewage scandal runs on, top chiefs at water companies are racking up millions of pounds in bonuses. This is a disgrace. Water companies shouldn’t be allowed to get away with pumping thousands of hours of filthy sewage into our rivers and waterways. We need the Conservatives to stop sitting on their hands, tax water companies and end this scandal.”

Megan Corton Scott, a political campaigner for Greenpeace UK, said: “We are the only country in the world to fully privatise our national water supply. This gave monopoly powers to the water companies with no conspicuous accountability and little commercial incentive to do anything but collect bill payments. People have no choice but to give them their money in exchange for performance that is, frankly, well below bog standard.

“The theory that the innate decency of the companies’ management would ensure an acceptable level of service has been completely disproven. The results are in and allowing water companies to mark their own homework doesn’t work. Either the government accepts that reform is needed and gives regulators the funding, the legal powers and the spine they desperately need, or our water industry will continue to stink.”

Water company bosses have made huge sums from salaries and bonuses in recent years, despite the continuing sewage scandal. Last year, it was revealed that the boss of Anglian Water, which had one of the worst pollution records in England, was given more than £1m in pay and bonuses.

The shadow environment secretary, Jim McMahon, said: “The Tory sewage scandal has allowed water bosses [to] profit from failure, whilst our villages, towns, and cities across the country have been treated as open sewers.

“In the absence of a serious government plan, Labour has brought forward our water quality bill to clean up the water industry once and for all. Labour’s proposed legislation would enforce mandatory monitoring and automatic fines at the point of dumping, ambitious targets that end the sewage scandal by 2030 and deliver accountability for negligent water bosses.”

Figures also showed the annual bonuses paid to water company executives rose by 20% in 2021 despite most of the companies failing to meet sewage pollution targets. On average executives received £100,000 in one-off payments on top of their salaries during a period in which polluted water was being pumped for 2.7m hours into England’s rivers and swimming spots.

The analysis of water companies’ annual reports found their bonus pool for executives stood at an average of more than £600,000 per company. In total the 22 water bosses paid themselves £24.8m, including £14.7m in bonuses, benefits and incentives, in 2021-22.

The former boss of Thames Water has been handed £2.8m since leaving the company, despite being sacked for leakages and fines while in charge.

United Utilities has been contacted for comment.

One thought on “Boss of UK’s most polluting water firm made £1.4m from shares before retiring

  1. Once again I challenge anyone to provide a single example of a privatisation (or outsourcing) that has delivered benefits to the public in the long-term.

    I have made this challenge several times before but have yet to have a single example that cannot be debunked within minutes.

    In the case of water companies, it is literally a license to print money because genuine (government) regulation is literally non-existent. Ofwat have literally told me explicitly that their role does not include regulation of water companies’ customer service, and the evidence is overwhelming that they don’t regulate sewerage services. The water company I dealt with (like all water companies) has a clause in their water license that says they must treat customers fairly, but my experience was that they are nasty, greedy bullies, free to treat customers as unfairly as they like because regulation is in practice non-existent.


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