Southern Water to pay out record £126m after ‘shocking’ Ofwat probe

Support us and go ad-free

Southern Water has been hit with a record £126 million penalty package after a “shocking” Ofwat probe uncovered failures in the firm’s sewage treatment sites and found that it fixed wastewater samples.

Customers of the utility company will now receive rebates of £61 over the next five years after Southern Water agreed to the package, which, given the size of the firm, is the largest the regulator has ever imposed.

Ofwat said its large-scale investigation found that Southern Water failed to operate a number of wastewater treatment works properly, including by not making the necessary investment, which led to equipment failures and spills of wastewater into the environment.

Read on...

Support us and go ad-free

The watchdog added that Southern Water also manipulated its wastewater sampling process, which led to it misreporting information to Ofwat and avoiding penalties in previous years.

Southern Water will refund £123 million to customers through their bills and pay a fine of £3 million.

The rebate includes £91 million in penalties Southern Water had avoided and a further £32 million of payments as recognition of its serious failures.

The package was reduced after Southern Water co-operated with the watchdog.

Ofwat chief executive Rachel Fletcher said: “What we found in this case is shocking.

“In all, it shows the company was being run with scant regard for its responsibilities to society and the environment.

“It was not just the poor operational performance, but the co-ordinated efforts to hide and deceive customers of the fact that are so troubling.”

Southern Water customers can now expect to receive a £17 rebate on their bills in 2020/21 and £11 in each of the following four years after the two-year investigation by Ofwat.

The water company appointed a new chief executive – Ian McAulay – in January 2017 to replace Matthew Wright and has since seen a raft of management changes.

It has also committed to new governance to ensure accurate monitoring and reporting, and a programme to change its culture, according to Ofwat.

The regulator said the firm had also put investment into its failing sewage sites, but will need to report to Ofwat on its progress on the commitments it has made.

Ms Fletcher added: “It is now for Southern Water, under its new leadership, and with the improvements it is introducing, to show it has learnt from this unacceptable behaviour and can be trusted again.”

The Environment Agency is now investigating Southern Water and the environmental impact of its actions.

Sir Tony Redmond, London and South East chairman for the Consumer Council for Water (CCWater), said: “Customers of Southern Water will be absolutely appalled at the reckless disregard the company showed for the environment, which people care so much about.

“It also deliberately misled its customers, which is why it’s right the vast majority of the penalty is returned to bill-payers who would have received most of this money had the company told the truth about its performance.”

Support us and go ad-free

We need your help to keep speaking the truth

Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.

Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.

We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.

In return, you get:

* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop

Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.

With your help we can continue:

* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do

We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?

The Canary Support us