Water firms won’t get taxpayers’ money if they fail to stop sewage spills across UK

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The government has accepted a Liberal Democrat amendment hailed as a “victory for millions across the country”

Water firms could lose public funds if they fail to produce adequate plans to stop sewage discharges after the government accepted a Liberal Democrat amendment.

The new post-Brexit UK Infrastructure Bank is a state-owned development bank designed to help the UK government reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

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However, a change to the UK Infrastructure Bank bill, tabled by Richard Foord, MP for Tiverton and Honiton, means that once it becomes law, taxpayers’ money will no longer be invested in water companies that do not produce a costed and timed plan for ending sewage spills into waterways. Tax receipts will only fund those water companies that do produce these plans.

Foord said the government had previously written a “blank cheque” of taxpayer money to water firms to invest in their infrastructure.

Originally, the bill could have given cheap finance to any water companies that wanted to make improvements to infrastructure.

It will have £12 billion of startup capital, including £5 billion of equity from the Treasury and £7 billion of debt. It will also be able to provide up to a further £10 billion of guarantees.

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‘Victory for millions’

Foord said his amendment to the bill “ensures water companies won’t receive a blank cheque with taxpayers’ money whilst they pollute our rivers and damage local wildlife.”

He said: “It would have been scandalous for taxpayers’ money to be thrown at firms who pay their execs multimillion pound bonuses, all whilst destroying our environment.

“This is a victory for millions of people across the country who have voiced their outrage at water companies being allowed to get away with polluting rivers and coastlines.”

The amendment comes following the environment secretary’s announcement of the Environmental Improvement Plan, which promises to end discharges in rivers and seas by 2050.

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Thérèse Coffey also promised to upgrade 160 wastewater treatment works and force companies to reduce leaks by 50% by 2050.

However, the Lib Dems have claimed the Conservatives’ new sewage bill effectively legalised waste dumping.

Earlier on Wednesday (1 February), Coffey hit out at the Lib Dems for their claim. She said: “This is not the first time that Liberal Democrats have put stuff out and it has been a complete load of the proverbial.”

NationalWorld has contacted the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs for comment.

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