The bosses of England’s privatised water companies have been criticised for banking £58m in pay and benefits over the last five years while customers have been faced with above-inflation rises in their water bills.
The GMB union said the chief executives of England’s nine water and sewage companies were “fat cats” earning “staggering sums” from the management of a natural resource.
Tim Roache, GMB’s general secretary, said “It’s a national scandal that over the last five years England’s hard-pressed water customers have been forced to splash out £58m through their bills to go into the pockets of just nine individuals. Privatisation of the water industry has been a costly mistake and these eye-watering sums are further proof..."
Household water bills have risen by 40% above inflation since the industry was privatised in 1989, according to a National Audit Office report. The average bill this year will be £405, a 2% increase on last year, according to Water UK, the trade body that represents water and sewerage companies.
Even Michael Gove, the Tory environment secretary, has also attacked water companies for paying their bosses large salaries and huge dividends to shareholders while contributing little or no tax.
“One might hope that companies making such massive profits, paying out such big dividends and supporting such generous executive salaries, would be big contributors to the exchequer through their tax bill,” Gove said in a speech to industry executives earlier this year. "But instead we have had 10 years of shareholders getting millions, the chief executive getting hundreds of thousands, and the public purse getting nothing.”
He said Anglian Water and Southern Water paid no corporation tax last year, while Thames Water “has paid no corporation tax for a decade”.
Also Ofwat, the industry regulator, said, “We have been very clear that we want to see water company executives rewarded for delivering for customers – not just shareholders.”