I don’t think it is an apology at all. I think it was somebody trying to strategise: “We are going to treat our customers with even more contempt than we’ve ever done before.”
Feargal Sharkey www.thetimes.co.uk
We’ve paid and provided all the funding needed for the water companies to meet their legal obligations, to build, operate, maintain sewage systems for 30 years. They’ve had all the funding.
They’re now turning around and, even more contemptuously, suggesting that they now want to put up customers’ bills by £10 billion to cover up and pay for their failure. It’s their greed and their bloody profiteering and their own incompetence that’s created the situation.
For me, it seems like this investment clearly hasn’t been approved by [the regulator] Ofwat. So it’s money that doesn’t even exist until it’s approved. It’s £10 billion over seven years. That’s £1.42 billion a year divided between nine main sewage companies. That’s £158.7 million a year.
Let me remind you that between April and September last year, Thames Water declared they had made £493.5 million in profit. The sector still managed to find a way to pay themselves £1.4 billion in dividends last year. So tell me again: is this an apology?
I’ve heard no apology for the billions they’ve made off with [in dividends and profits], the £60 billion worth of debt they’re in. I’ve heard no apology for the absolutely desperate state these rivers are now in because of their actions over the past 30 years. And I see absolutely nothing that actually looks like a plan.
Five of them have now given up their bonuses. Having spent three years dumping 7.5 million hours’ worth of sewage into our rivers, I don’t think you’re entitled to a bonus anyway.
The government, Ofwat and the companies now need to publish the strategy over the next five, ten, 15 years about exactly who’s going to be doing what, who’s going to be held accountable for it, who’s going to deliver it, who’s going to end up paying for it. How much pain the water companies are going to feel? How much are their shareholders going to put up? Who’s going to do something to rein in all of these limited bonuses?
This doesn’t stop until it’s fixed. And it’s a long, long way from being fixed.