Steve Reed: New Environment Secretary announces first steps to 'clean up' water industry as he vows 'change has begun'

Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now
As Ofwat announced water bills will rise by £94 across the next five years, the new Environment Secretary has vowed to “clean up” the water industry.

Steve Reed has announced a series of initial steps towards ending the crisis in the water sector today (Thursday 11 July). The new measures are hoped to represent a step change after years of failure to ensure the water industry cuts illegal sewage dumping and attracts major private-sector investment to upgrade infrastructure while prioritising the interests of customers and the environment.

He has written to Ofwat to ask them to make sure funding for vital infrastructure investment is ringfenced and can only be spent on upgrades benefiting customers and the environment. He also wants Ofwat to ensure that when money for investment is not spent, companies refund customers, with money never allowed to be diverted for bonuses, dividends or salary increases. 

Hide Ad
Hide Ad
As Ofwat announced water bills will rise by £94 across the next five years, the new Environment Secretary has vowed to “clean up” the water industry. (Photo: Lucy North/PA Wire)As Ofwat announced water bills will rise by £94 across the next five years, the new Environment Secretary has vowed to “clean up” the water industry. (Photo: Lucy North/PA Wire)
As Ofwat announced water bills will rise by £94 across the next five years, the new Environment Secretary has vowed to “clean up” the water industry. (Photo: Lucy North/PA Wire) | Lucy North/PA Wire

The Secretary of State will be clear that he expects companies to change their ‘Articles of Association’ – the rules governing each company – to make the interests of customers and the environment a primary objective. Under his new measures consumers will gain new powers to hold water company bosses to account through powerful new customer panels. For the first time in history, customers will have the power to summon board members and hold water executives to account.

Reed has also vowed to strengthen protection and compensation for households and businesses when their basic water services are affected. He said: “We will never look the other way while water companies pump sewage into our rivers, lakes and seas. This unacceptable destruction of our waterways should never have been allowed, but change has now begun so it can never happen again. 

“Today I have announced significant steps to clean up the water industry to cut sewage pollution, protect customers and attract investment to upgrade its crumbling infrastructure. That change will take time. Over the coming weeks and months, this government will outline further steps to reform the water sector and restore our rivers, lakes and seas to good health.”

This afternoon Reed will meet water company chief executives to make clear that under this government water companies will be answerable for their performance for customers and the environment. He will set out his plans to work in partnership with the sector and investors to attract investment, jobs, and clean up the nation’s polluted waterways.

Comment Guidelines

National World encourages reader discussion on our stories. User feedback, insights and back-and-forth exchanges add a rich layer of context to reporting. Please review our Community Guidelines before commenting.