Friday, June 21, 2024

Severn Trent boss paid £3.2m despite firm’s fine for sewage spills in river

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The boss of Severn Trent Water has been awarded a £3.2m pay deal, including a £584,000 bonus, despite the company being fined £2m for spilling 260m litres of sewage into the River Trent.

Liv Garfield, who has been the head of the utility firm for a decade, saw her pay increase by 2.1% , bringing her total take-home pay during her time as Severn boss to more than £28m.

Garfield received just over 60% of the total amount of bonus she was eligible forduring the year to the end of March. The reward was curbed in part because Severn did not hit environmental targets due to the £2m fine this year.

Severn, which serves 4.6m households and businesses from Bristol to the Humber, and mid-Wales to the east Midlands, was fined by Ofwat in February for polluting the River Trent between November 2019 and February 2020.

Ofwat’s investigation found that the Strongford treatment works in Stoke-on-Trent discharged more than 260m litres of sewage, the equivalent of 10 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

Last month Garfield was forced to defend her pay packet while telling the BBC that the 60,000 spills Severn was responsible for in 2023 did not make her feel good.

The news of Garfield’s bonus comes just a day after it was revealed that Susan Davy, the boss of South West Water’s parent company, Pennon, received a £300,000 pay increase, despite an outbreak of diarrhoea caused by a parasite in Devon’s water supply.

The increase came despite Pennon executives agreeing to forgo bonuses due to its poor performance on sewage dumping.

The UK’s three main political parties have all promised tough action on water companies and their bosses who dump sewage in waterways.

The Conservative manifesto, which was published on Tuesday, pledged to work with the regulator to hold companies to account and ban executive bonuses if a company has committed a serious criminal breach.

On Monday, the Liberal Democrats’ manifesto promised to convert water companies into public benefit companies and “ban bonuses for bosses until the discharges and leaks end”.

It comes as the environmental campaigner Feargal Sharkey called for a public inquiry into the water industry and claimed that they were “scamming” customers.

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Speaking at a fringe event at the GMB annual conference in Bournemouth, the former Undertones singer said: “We have ended up with every river in England being polluted, while £72bn of your money has been stripped out.”

He added that every chief executive of a water company and the regulator should be “hauled” before a public inquiry.

A Severn Trent spokesperson said: “Delivering for our customers, our communities and the environment underpins our approach to remuneration.

“Just under three-quarters of executive pay is directly linked to performance, with stretching targets in place.

“In 2023-24 we maintained our position as a sector-leading performer, delivering against our operational targets for customers, investing £1.2bn across our region and achieving a four-star rating from the Environmental Agency for a fourth consecutive year.”

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