UK News

Three water company bosses decline bonuses

The decision to decline their bonuses comes as public outrage over sewage pollution continues to rise (Ben Birchall/PA)
Danny Halpin, PA Environment Correspondent

Three water company bosses have decided to give up their bonuses this year following public anger over sewage pollution in Britain’s rivers.

Chief executives Nicola Shaw of Yorkshire Water, Sarah Bentley of Thames Water and Susan Davy of South West Water have declined to accept bonuses this year.

Ms Shaw said she understands the “strength of feeling” on river pollution and decided to refuse what would have been her first bonus since arriving at the company in May 2022.

Annual reports show she could have received between £600,000 and £800,000 if the company met its performance targets for the year. Last year the company paid out £878,000 in bonuses to directors.

Ms Shaw said: “I understand the strength of feeling about the issues linked to river health which is why I’ve decided that this year I won’t be accepting a bonus.

“This is the right thing to do and I’m committed to improving Yorkshire Water’s performance.

“Our turnaround plan is already under way: our Environmental Performance Assessment (EPA) has improved to a 3* company, we are tunnelling a huge new sewer for Ilkley, and we’ve started an additional £180 million programme of work to improve our storm overflows in the region.

“Alongside this, we’re building plans for our biggest environmental programme since privatisation.”

Last year Ms Bentley received £496,000 while Ms Davy took £522,000.

Thames Water’s chief financial officer, Alastair Cochran, will also skip his bonus for 2022-23. He received £298,000 last year.

Emma Clancy, chief executive of the Consumer Council for Water, said: “We welcome this move by Sarah Bentley and Alastair Cochran at Thames Water.

“Our recent research, Bridging the Gap, shows that bonuses add to people’s current frustration with the water industry and they would like much more openness and transparency on this issue.

“This announcement shows that people’s concerns are being listened to.”

A House of Lords committee said in March that water bosses should not receive bonuses while their companies are missing targets and polluting the environment.

It said “a slurry of under-investment, insufficient government strategy, and inadequate co-ordination” has meant water is not being treated with the care and importance it deserves.

The committee also said the regulator, Ofwat, has failed to ensure companies invest enough money into infrastructure.

The Government has said it is forcing water companies to invest £56 million in updating its infrastructure, much of which is decades old.

Dr Harvey Wood, director of the Clean Rivers Trust, said it is not able to accommodate the extra demand placed on the sewage system by a larger population and that only a nationwide overhaul will alleviate the pressure.

He said: “It’s a huge problem that this country has got to adjust to. Sewers that are discharging are having to take far more sewage as the house building continues and the system can’t cope.

“There’s a huge need in rural and semi-rural areas for an increase in sewer size. The sewer system generally in this country is shot.”