Last year Thames Water was hit with a £20m fine for polluting the waterways of Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire with a billion and a half litres of raw sewage between 2012 and 2014.
The judge cited a “failure to report incidents” and a “history of non-compliance” by the company. Equipment was unmaintained. Warnings from employees went unheeded by management. Thames’s conduct was branded “disgraceful”, justifying the largest financial penalty for pollution in UK corporate history.
While all that was going on Thames’s boss, the aptly named Martin Baggs, received a 60 per cent pay rise, taking his total annual remuneration to above £2m.
Now Thames (along with three other private water companies) has let down its customers again, leaving them high and uncomfortably dry after pipes burst in last week’s big freeze. And, once again, it’s apparently corporate incompetence at work rather than just bad luck.
“Water companies have been warned time and again that they need to be better at planning ahead to deal with these sorts of situations,” fumed Rachel Fletcher, the head of the regulator, Ofwat, today.
So presumably, if history is a guide, Thames’s current chief executive can look forward to a bumper payday.
Owning a water company isn’t a licence to print money. But the cash does flow extraordinarily freely in this sector. In the financial year ending in 2017, according to data collected by Ofwat, the private water companies raked in total revenues from households and businesses of £11.7bn. Their profits before tax were just under £2bn.
Read more on the website of The Independant