Water quality profit before people

New analysis of Companies House records by the Liberal Democrats has found water company profits are almost twice as high compared to 2019. 

The party will unveil plans at their conference to implement a Sewage Tax on water firms to pay for river clean ups and a new wave of local environmental journalists. 

Ed Davey will visit a community group in Cheadle, Stockport, who are protecting their local river from United Utilities sewage discharges. United Utilities, who discharged the most sewage according to the Environment Agency, received £208m in pre-tax profits last year. 

In 2022/2023, England’s water firms made a staggering £1.7bn in pre-tax profits. This is up 82% since 2018/2019, when the same firms raked in £955m. Since 2018/2019, water firms have made £4.2bn in pre-tax profits. 

Last year, Yorkshire Water made the biggest profit at £723m - the highest since 2018/2019. 

At their upcoming Spring Conference, the Liberal Democrats will unveil their latest set of policies to clean up the country’s waterways. The party, which has led the campaign against sewage in Westminster, will call for an additional 16% levy on top of corporate tax for water firms. 

As well as being used for river clean ups, the party is now calling for the fund to pay the salaries of environmental journalists in each region. These Environment Reporters will investigate local issues and hold  polluting industries to account; operating in a similar way to the BBC’s Local Democracy Reporter network.

The party’s bold new policy paper on water companies also includes:

  • Plans to restructure firms to ensure profit is no longer put above the environment 

  • Abolish Ofwat and set-up a new regulator

  • Allow charities and campaigners to take water firms to court 

In this Parliament, the Liberal Democrats have also called for an outright ban on water company executive bonuses, which stand at a staggering £41.2m in bonuses, benefits and incentives over the last three years. 

Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey said: 

“These eye-watering profits are a national scandal. Whilst our rivers, lakes and coastlines get destroyed by raw sewage, these polluting firms are laughing all the way to the bank. Frankly, the whole thing stinks. 

“This is concrete proof that under the Conservatives, water firms have prospered and got away with environmental vandalism. 

“Britain needs a new wave of local journalists to hold polluting companies to account. 

“This bold plan will increase public awareness of environmental tragedies, and help hold powerful companies to account. There are so many stories to tell in local communities, and it seems fitting that the water firms pay up to fund the next generation of Sewage Sleuths.

“I was proud to launch our party’s campaign on this issue three years ago, and thrust water quality into the Westminster spotlight. Liberal Democrat activists across the country are spearheading the fight against polluting and profiteering water firms.”

Harry Boparai, the Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Candidate for Spelthorne commented:

"I live close to the river Thames in Spelthorne so I know from personal experience how filthy our rivers have become under the Conservatives.  The Liberal Democrats are campaigning to end sewage discharges and to require failing water companies to become Public Interest Companies, which are run for the good of the environment, as well as for profit. We would ban bonuses for water bosses until unnecessary discharges stop and leaks brought under control, and replace OFWAT with a tough new regulator with new powers to prevent sewage dumps."

 

Analysis of Companies House records by the Liberal Democrats