Who is Southern Water’s CEO - as Feargal Sharkey challenges Lawrence Gosden to drink a glass of sewage

Lawrence Gosden was previously at Thames Water for 12 years - and now heads Southern Water which has failed to meet 13 targets on reducing pollution
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Southern Water has been slammed by singer and sewage activist Feargal Sharkey for “scraping the bottom of the barrel” after a report by Ofwat found the water company has failed in every single category.

The water company failed to meet 13 key categories on reducing pollution, leakage and supply interruptions.

The categories the water company failed in are: customer satisfaction, priority services, leakage, per capita consumption, supply interruptions, drinking water quality, mains repairs, internal sewer flooding, pollution incidents, sewer collapses and treatment works compliance.

The only category the water company didn’t fail in is unplanned outage.

Ofwat judges the performance of water companies in England and Wales each year against “stretching” targets they set in 2019 for a five-year period until 2025.

CEO of failing water company challenged to drink a glass of sewage. (Photo: Southern Water Facebook account) CEO of failing water company challenged to drink a glass of sewage. (Photo: Southern Water Facebook account)
CEO of failing water company challenged to drink a glass of sewage. (Photo: Southern Water Facebook account)

If they fail to meet these, Ofwat restricts the amount of money they can take from customers.

Southern Water now has to pay out £43 million to customers after “falling short” on its performance, Ofwat said.

On the social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter, Feargal Sharkey has challenged the CEO of Southern Water to drink a glass of sewage the firm claims to be 95% rainwater and said he will donate £1,000 to charity if Lawrence Gosden accepts his dare.

He said: “He drinks one glass of his 95% rainwater from a CSO of my choosing and I’ll pay £1,000 of my money to a charity of his choosing”.

Lawrence Gosden was appointed CEO of Southern Water on 1 July last year.

Taking a look back at Gosden’s background, he was employed as Southern Water’s Head of Maintenance from 1994 to 2007.

Following this he then jumped ship to Thames Water, spending 12 years and seven months at the company until April 2020 - starting out as Head of Capital Delivery and progressing to Interim Asset Management Director.

After this post he became Non Executive Director at National Highways before returning back to Southern Water in May 2022 as Chief Operating Officer to CEO in July.

His pay has been undisclosed - but it was announced last year that he had declined a bonus for the year to March 2023 over sewage spills.

As Chief Operating Officer Gosden was tasked with transforming operational performance of waste water services to improve environmental outcomes and deliver excellent service for customers.

He was Chief Operating Officer and then CEO of the company last year at the time Southern Water was also told by Ofwat to reduce customers’ bills because of missed targets on areas such as water supply interruptions, pollution incidents and internal sewer flooding.

Southern Water had to return some £28.3 million to its customers.

Gosden jumping ship from Southern Water to Thames Water, and back again, is similar to the CEO of Thames Water, Cathryn Ross.

Before joining Thames Water as CEO, she was the CEO of Ofwat where she was responsible for ensuring the industry delivered against the expectations of customers, wider society and the environment.

Louise Reddy, Policy Officer at environment group Surfers Against Sewage, said Ross going from Ofwat to Thames Water means the “waters” have been “muddied”.

She added that “we need a robust and challenging regulator to get us out of this mess” and “not one that can’t draw the line between regulator and regulated.”

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