Water company bosses pocketed a record £10million in salaries last year despite mounting outrage over sewage pollution.
Financial records show that the sums paid to chief executives on the water industry ‘gravy train’ soared by £876,000 in 2022/2023 compared to 2021/2022.
Five chief executives turned down their bonuses last year – but a further £9.7million in bonuses were paid to water industry chief executives.
United Utilities, which discharged the most sewage into waterways according to the Environment Agency, paid out the most base pay to its executives last year (£1.6million).
Severn Trent, who discharged sewage 45,000 times last year, paid £3.5 million in bonuses to two executives last year.
Thames Water paid £1.52 million in salaries to its executive chairman Ian Marchant, Alastair Cochran, the former chief financial officer and its former chief executive, Sarah Bentley
Two firms, Anglian Water and Northumbrian Water, increased the amount they paid out on bonuses year-on-year.
Anglian Water, who have missed their Ofwat pollution targets, paid their two executives £60,000 more compared to last year.
The water industry is under fire for pouring sewage into waterways, as well as imposing summer hosepipe bans and dishing out lavish executive pay and siphoning off billions in dividend payments to shareholders.
At the time of privatisation in 1989, water companies were sold off debt-free, but now the companies have racked up liabilities of more than £54billion.
Water bills are set to rise on average by 35 per cent between now and 2030 to pay for improvements to infrastructure which critics say could have been paid for by reinvesting profits.
The Office for Environmental Protection, the watchdog set up to uphold environmental standards in the UK post-Brexit is currently investigating whether the government committed ‘possible failures to comply with environmental law’ by not ensuring sewer overflows did not pollute rivers.
Combined storm overflows are only supposed to be used after periods of unusually heavy rain to prevent the system backing up and flooding people’s homes and businesses with sewage.
The Liberal Democrats, who carried out the analysis [pls keep], are calling for a ban on all CEO bonuses within the water industry, as well as the firms to be run as ‘public good companies’ – where the companies have to put the needs of the environment ahead of shareholders, and the boards would contain environmental experts.
United Utilities, which discharged the most sewage into waterways according to the Environment Agency, paid out the most base pay to its executives last year
Severn Trent, who discharged sewage 45,000 times last year, paid £3.5 million in bonuses to two executives last year
Thames Water, whose chief executive, Sarah Bentley (pictured), dramatically resigned in the summer, paid £1.52 million in salaries to its chief executives, with around half going to Bentley
Liberal Democrat Environment spokesman Tim Farron MP said: ‘This country’s water industry has become a gravy train where sewage and money flows freely. This is a scandal and happening on this government’s watch.
‘When will Conservative Ministers finally get tough on these polluting and profiteering firms? These execs are stuffing their pockets whilst our rivers and lakes are destroyed. Frankly, the whole thing stinks.
‘These bonuses need to be banned as long as the sewage scandal continues. Bonuses should be a reward for success, not committing environmental crimes.
‘It’s time to rip up this broken industry, starting with reforming company boards and putting an end to profit before the environment. Conservative Ministers will ignore the public outrage at their own peril.’
The trade body Water UK, said: ‘While we don’t recognise the methodology, these figures from the Liberal Democrats show total CEO remuneration fell last year. In addition, no water and sewerage company in England and Wales paid a bonus out of customer money, while half of CEOs took no bonus whatsoever.
Liberal Democrat Environment spokesman Tim Farron MP said: ‘This country’s water industry has become a gravy train where sewage and money flows freely’
The water industry is under fire for pouring sewage into waterways, as well as imposing summer hosepipe bans and dishing out lavish executive pay
‘This is the first time this has ever happened in the water industry and reflects the industry’s recognition that the public expect better.’
A Defra spokesman said: ‘This Government takes oversight of the water industry very seriously – which is why we have given Ofwat new powers allowing them to toughen up rules on dividends.
‘It’s also why we welcome Ofwat tightening rules on bonus payments. For 2022-23, no water companies in England are paying a CEO bonus out of customer money, and many CEOs have decided to take no bonus.’
The £10m windfall was shared between just 26 executives in England and Wales.
Thames Water, whose chief executive, Sarah Bentley, dramatically resigned in the summer, paid £1.52 million in salaries to its chief executives, with around half going to Bentley, and the rest divided between executive chairman Ian Marchant and Alastair Cochran, the former chief financial officer.
The highest paid bosses were those at Severn Trent Water, who received £1.2million in base pay and £3.4m in bonuses, benefits and incentives.
United Utilities, who received £1.6million in base pay and £2.4million in bonuses benefits and incentives and Anglian Water, where top executives got £996,700 in base pay and £1.3million in bonuses, benefits and incentives.