Fringe Box



Lib Dems Warn of Ballot Box Reckoning Over Increased Sewage Dumping

Published on: 20 Apr, 2024
Updated on: 21 Apr, 2024

By Martin Giles

Latest official data from the Environment Agency, compiled by the House of Commons Library, reveals that in 2023 Guildford’s waterways were polluted by sewage on 210 separate occasions, for a total of 1,372 hours.  

Compared to 2022, that’s an increase of:

  • 34 per cent in the number of sewage spills, from 157 to 210
  • 32 per cent in the number of hours, from 1,038 to 1,372

Across England, sewage was dumped into waterways more than 460,000 times, for a total of more than 3.6 million hours. Nine in 10 constituencies in England saw a rise in the amount of sewage dumping in 2023 compared to 2022.

See also: You Don’t Believe Us! Angry Residents Tell New Thames Water CEO

Zoe Franklin

Zöe Franklin, the Lib Dem Parliamentary candidate in the forthcoming general election, said: “How can the Conservatives still shamelessly try to tell us that they care about us and our environment! These figures tell us that they don’t.

“To see the amount of sewage dumped in Guildford’s waterways soar by 34 per cent in a year shows the Conservatives’ empty posturing for exactly what it is.

Guildford sewage treatment works at Slyfield.

“Failing Thames Water is pouring even more raw sewage into our waterways, and the Conservatives are letting them get away with it.

“The Conservatives are turning a blind eye to this appalling environmental vandalism. It must stop.”

Guildford Lib Dems say their party is calling for strict new measures including:

  • replacing Ofwat with a tougher regulator
  • a ban on bonuses for water company bosses whose firms have dumped sewage into waterways
  • the declaration of a national environmental emergency.

Ms Franklin continued: The Conservatives, and Thames Water, are treating us with contempt.

“However much longer this failing Conservative government limps on, when the General Election comes, this appalling government faces a reckoning at the ballot box from people disgusted by this sewage scandal.”

Angela Richardson in Parliament

But the incumbent Conservative MP for Guildford and competing general election candidate hit back, attacking the Lib Dem coalition government’s track record. She said: “No one wants to see our waterways polluted.

“The Lib Dems’ claim to be leading on this issue ring hollow when, for the first time in 100 years, they were in a position to do anything by holding the office of Minister for Water in the Coalition Government, but they did very little. It was the Conservative minister, Richard Benyon, who began the process of requiring event duration monitors (EDMs) to be installed, which achieved 100 per cent coverage by the end of last year. Scotland, whose water is nationalised, is still sitting on 4 per cent.

“I welcome that the government has implemented the following:

  • Empowered regulators and relevant agencies to incentivise water infrastructure investment, got tough on water polluters, and took direct action to ensure stringent standards are maintained by water companies.
  • Banned bonuses for bosses of water companies that have committed criminal breaches, and the Environment Agency has been empowered to take significant direct action against firms that are not fulfilling their obligations.
  • Fined Thames Water due to the volume of sewage discharge in our rivers.

“This is yet another template Lib Dem press release that residents can see through because of the work which Jeremy Hunt MP and I have been doing to hold Thames Water and Ofwat to account.

“The increase in storm overflow usage last year was predictable due to an increase in heavy rainfall. 2023 was the UK’s 11th wettest year since 1836. Perhaps, the Lib Dems need to interrogate the data a little better. Are the Lib Dems claiming they would have stopped it raining too?

“Whilst the Lib Dems are busy playing politics, I am focused on holding Thames Water and Ofwat to account.”

But Guildford Labour also criticised the Conservatives’ record: “The Tories’ hands-off approach to regulation has turned Guildford’s waterways into an open sewer. And it looks as though the Conservative plan to nationalise Thames Water will let them off the hook and leave taxpayers in Guildford and beyond to pay the price. It is estimated Thames Water currently has a £15.6 billion debt which will push water bills up by 56 per cent.

“Labour will stop bonus payments to shareholders and use the money to modernise the system to cope with increased rainfall and sewage spills. We have pledged to put all water companies under tough special measures to force them to clean up their mess and protect people’s health. Water bosses who oversee repeated lawbreaking will face criminal charges. 

“Labour will also end self-monitoring, which will force all water companies to have every water outlet independently monitored to stop illegal sewage dumping and will introduce severe fines that water companies cannot ignore.”

But there was a swipe at the Lib Dems too: “There is a lot of righteous indignation on display from the Liberal Democrats, but they will not be in government, so can do nothing to make things better. A Labour MP and a Labour Government will sort this out!”

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