South West Water increases dividends to shareholders - despite discharging sewage over 37,000 times last year
South West Water has increased its dividend to shareholders by 8.3% despite the company being investigated due to its leakage and being responsible for thousands of sewage discharges. According to campaign group Top of the Poops, South West Water was responsible for 37,587 sewage overflows last year, equating to an average of 103 a day polluting rivers including the Tamar, Teign and Torridge.
The dividend increase from 12.96p to 14.04p is in line with its established payout policy however its operating profit fell by 11.6 per cent to £85.9 million, while pre-tax profit slid 59.6 per cent to £9.1 million. It also comes at a time when Britain’s water companies face increasing criticism over sewage contamination of rivers.
In June last year, Ofwat, the water regulator, announced enforcement action against South West Water over the treatment of sewage, then in May this year, the regulator announced an investigation into the water company’s leakage and consumption data for 2021-22. In April the water company was also fined more than £2 million for a series of environmental offences across Devon and Cornwall spanning a period of four years. It is the largest ever fine imposed for environmental offences in the region.
On Tuesday (November 28) a Cornwall councillor made a jibe about South West Water being in court "more times than the Krays" over sewage discharges when a full meeting of the local authority voted in favour of a motion to protect the ocean. Councillor Stephen Barnes said: "I think a lot of the problems with the ocean comes down to South West Water (SWW) and the Environment Agency who are meant to be protecting the environment and simply aren't funded to do a good enough job.
"If we had someone going around with a truck fly-tipping and chucking stuff in a river, this council would quite rightly jump all over them and take them to court, but South West Water just pump it into the rivers, streams and sea and nothing happens. Occasionally they get fined - South West Water's been in court more times than the Krays. Nothing changes - the government does nothing."
Last month, Pennon, the group that owns South West Water, announced a £2.8 billion investment to tackle water quality, leakage and pollution issues. The FTSE 250 company, which also owns Bristol Water and Bournemouth Water, said it expected to create 2,000 jobs in the region by 2030 as it steps up investment. Susan Davy, 54, the Pennon chief executive, said: “I am very clear that if we serve our customers well, we serve our shareholders well, which is why we are focused on improving environmental performance, keeping bills as low as possible, developing new water resources, and investing in renewable energy generation."