Nationalisation is the answer to Southern Water cover up

Southern spilt sewage

Southern spilt sewage   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)

Daniel Gilmore, Newcastle Socialist Party

An investigation into Southern Water by the industry regulator Ofwat has demanded that the company pay a £126 million penalty package, the largest it has ever imposed. The Environment Agency is now also looking into pressing criminal charges.

Southern Water serves around two million properties across Kent, Sussex, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight. Each household will only get a pathetic £61 rebate, spread over five years.

Southern Water and its senior managers attempted a cover-up. They manipulated wastewater samples to deceive investigators and the public.

Ofwat chief executive Rachel Fletcher commented that “the company was being run with scant regard for its responsibilities to society and the environment”.

Ofwat’s report found that Southern Water had caused a number of wastewater spills. There were regular failures at sewage treatment sites through lack of investment and maintenance.

These fines are meagre when compared to the profits that the company has managed to wring out of their customers. Since 2007, Southern Water has paid out more than £300 million worth of dividends to its shareholders on the back of lies and chronic mismanagement.

The company made £155 million in profit in 2018 alone. Matthew Wright, the chief executive of Southern Water at the time, received more than £5 million overall for his role in the deceit.

This incident is not isolated to Southern Water. Just nine private companies control the country’s water industry.

Last year, Thames Water was penalised £120 million by Ofwat for failing to reach its targets for controlling leaks. In January, Northumbrian Water was fined £500,000 after supplying water deemed “unfit for human consumption.”

It is clear that the current capitalist system is endangering public safety as well as our ecosystem. We demand the nationalisation of the water industry as well as all other utilities, democratically controlled and managed by the workers in those sectors.

Any compensation should only be paid on proven need, with no more of our cash going towards the big shareholders whose greed and incompetence has put us all at risk in the pursuit of profit.