The Ramsgate Society welcomes Southern Water’s recent announcement of investment 2020-2025 of £427 million in Kent to “improve our performance”. That is less than £100 million per year and this has to be balanced against their appalling under-performance and under-investment over the previous years since privatisation.

In 2023 we saw a 115% rise in the number of hours Southern Water discharged raw sewage into our waterways, Between them, Wessex, Thames and Southern Water clocked up 3,500 hours of spills in 2022 during periods without recent rainfall (and thus falling outside of the ‘exceptional circumstances’ loophole).

The Environment Agency named Southern Water as one of the worst environmental performers in 2022.

Southern Water and Thames Water have been named the “standout poor performers” in handling complaints from customers over the past year by the Consumer Council for Water (CCW).

We will see whether the promised improvements in performance materialise, with cessation of illegal sewage discharges and improvement in the health of our lakes, rivers and seas.

I remain pessimistic. Remember, this is the water company that in 2019 paid £126m in penalties and payments to customers following serious failures in the operation of its sewage treatment sites and for deliberately misreporting its performance (Ofwat report) and was fined £90 million in July 2021 for illegal sewage releases.

So the planned investment to improve services is only twice the amount paid out in penalties and is a drop in the ocean (no pun intended) in comparison to the environmental and actual costs incurred by sewage pollution.

It is also only just over 10% of their total revenue.  Hardly impressive. (815.7 million in 2023)

Phil Shotton, Ramsgate Society Lead on Environment and Climate Change