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  • by Karma Loveday

Campaigners criticise government water bonus ban plan

Environment secretary, Steve Barclay, last week ordered a ban on bonuses for water executives whose companies have committed serious criminal breaches.

Defra said Ofwat would consult on the criteria for the ban and that this could include successful prosecution for a Category 1 or 2 pollution incident – such as causing significant pollution at a bathing site or conservation area – or where a company has been found guilty of serious management failings.

The measure is expected to come into force later this year, and will be implemented by Ofwat changing water company licences under its new Environment Act 2021 powers.

Barclay commented: “In cases where companies have committed criminal breaches there is no justification whatsoever for paying out bonuses. It needs to stop now.”

Campaigners have generally criticised the move as variously too little too late, a pre-election gimmick or regurgitation of previous commitments (Ofwat announced plans last year to tighten restrictions on bonuses).

For instance, policy director for Greenpeace UK, Dr Doug Parr, said: “…a symbolic bonus ban – whilst tiptoeing in the right direction – is not fundamental change. The flow of cash out of the industry needs to be reversed, flowing into our infrastructure until sewage stops flowing into our rivers. We need real investors, whether public or private, and an end to all dividends until our water industry is no longer an international embarrassment.”

Windrush Against Sewage Pollution tweeted: “Eighteen months ago, the Environment Agency was talking about prosecuting water company bosses. Now, water bosses might have their bonuses looked at. We can see who is winning these negotiations and it is not the public or environment.”

Barclay is expected this week to make a further water policy announcement, likely regarding curbing self-monitoring of water quality by water companies.


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