Fury as Southern Water reveals 'plan' to hike bills 73% by 2030

Fury as scandal-hit Southern Water reveals it is ‘considering’ hiking bills by 73% – which would see millions of customers paying an extra £279 a year by 2030

  • Plans, leaked from a focus group, show bills could hit a total of £759 by 2030
  • Southern Water said the proposals are not final and part of a wider strategy 

Scandal-hit Southern Water has ignited fury after its plans to charge customers an extra £279 a year on their bills by 2030, were reveled in leaked documents from a focus group.

The proposals, which are not finalised, could affect millions of customers and see each household paying an average of 73 per cent more by 2030 compared to today – a total of £759. 

It means that if the plan is green-lit by Southern Water bosses, cash-strapped families would need to find an extra £959 more over five years.

But news of the hikes comes after the water firm was fined a record-breaking £90million for discharging billions of litres of raw sewage into the sea. 

Furious campaigners have now blasted the company, with one person saying ‘how utterly, utterly dare they’, as environmental group SOS Whitestable raged: ‘Absolutely scandalous and we’re not paying for it. End privatisation now!’ 

While Penny Mordaunt, leader of the House of Commons, told MailOnline sewage releases had been a ‘blight’ millions and any price hike must be ‘scrutinised’.

Southern Water has released billions of litres of raw sewage into the sea. Pictured is a discharge into the seat at East Sussex last summer

Bognor Regis Beach in West Sussex (left) and beaches in Bournemouth (right) are just some of the areas to have been hit by sewage discharges

Activists, including those from SOS Whitstable, have previously staged protests against the release of sewage by Southern Water onto beaches 

As part of its proposals, Southern Water is also considering a ‘least cost plan’, which would save each household £10 by 2030 but some improvement works on reducing sewage spills, repeat flooding, climate adaptation and sewage infiltration would not be completed.  

In the leaflets, leaked by a member of a focus group who wished to remain anonymous, Southern Water said its regulatory commitment is to reduce sewage spills by 25 per cent by 2030 and 75 per cent by 2050.

It said for this it needs to charge £30 per household, which totals £750million.

The least cost option would save a further £3-a-year rise by 2030 – giving Southern Water £60million – but the company would not invest in accelerating work to reduce sewage discharges from the top 30 spilling storm overflows.

Southern Water said the options are not final but part of a wider programme of research before it submits its proposals to industry regulator Ofwat in October. 

It added this figures did not include discounts of least 45 per cent to around 125,000 households in financial hardship.

Katy Colley, from the group Hastings Boycotts Southern Water, said: ‘Southern Water has had years to put their house in order and make the necessary investments from the money they collect from our bills; instead they paid out millions in dividends, executive salaries and bonuses.

‘Now they want us to pay all over again for the works they should have already done. It’s a disgrace and we are certainly not going to pick up the bill for their greed.’

Southern Water provides water to 2.6 million customers and wastewater services to 4.6 million customers across Kent, Sussex, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.

In 2021, it was fined a record £90 million for what a judge called a ‘shocking and wholesale disregard for the environment’ when it dumped billions of litres of raw sewage into the sea.

Portsmouth, home to Britain’s Royal Navy, is among one of the worst affected areas in the country. 

The city, the only island one in the UK, has now introduced daily monitoring alerts to prevent visitors from ‘swimming in poo’, said Councillor Steve Pitt, Portsmouth City Council leader.

Penny Mordaunt, Portsmouth North MP, said the price hikes needed to be ‘scrutinised’. 

‘Southern Water do need to make substantial investments in new infastructure if we are to end storm overflows which blight the lives of so many in costal areas, but price hikes need to be scrutinised so we can be certain the public will benefit and the bill is being fairly shared,’ she told MailOnline.

Cllr Pitt added: ‘I’m shocked to learn the Southern Water is planning to charge their customers to clean up their mess after years of shareholder payouts.

‘We’ve had to introduce daily monitoring because of all the sewage releases. As a city, we are hugely dependent on tourism… we don’t want residents of visitors swimming in poo.’ 

Portsmouth North MP said sewage releases had ‘blighted’ the lives of her constituents. She is pictured on June 6

Katy Taylor, chief customer officer of Southern Water, said: ‘We regularly listen to the views of customers from across our region when we plan future investment in our network, and we discuss the possible impacts on bills. 

‘We know our communities want to see us investing to improve our environmental outcomes and to do it wisely, but we also recognise the concerns about rising payments in the face of a cost-of-living crisis.

‘This is why it is important we work together with our communities, in finding the right balance.’

Cat Hobbs is the director of We Own It, a group campaigning for public ownership of the water companies.

She said that, according to a poll of more than 4,000 people commissioned by her group, 69 per cent support public ownership, adding: ‘This absolute scandal makes it crystal clear that our privatised water system is broken.

‘No wonder people are outraged to the point of boycott. Instead of forcing customers to pay even more, it’s time to take Southern back into public ownership.

‘Shareholders the other side of the world don’t care that beaches in southern England are covered in sewage.

‘We should copy Scotland – investment by publicly-owned Scottish Water is 35% higher and rivers and seas are cleaner as a result.

‘Water is the stuff of life, it should be run for people not profit.’

Source: Read Full Article