Water regulation needs to be properly resourced, says UNISON

Process must also be independent, says the union, in the wake of the massive fine handed to Southern Water for deliberate acts of pollution

old-fashioned tap with water running from it

UNISON is calling on the government to introduce regulation that will help it deliver on its promise to “build back greener” following the coronavirus pandemic.

Responding to last week’s government announcement on water policy reforms to deliver an ambitious environmental agenda, the union said that Westminster must ensure suitably funded, resourced and independent regulation is in place to deliver on those challenges.

The government announcement followed a recent judgement and record fine of Southern Water for regularly and deliberately pouring untreated sewage into protected waters on the south coast of England.

UNISON national secretary for business and environment Donna Rowe-Merriman said: “Any reforms must tackle the fundamental issue of non-compliance that has been happening for years. The most recent judgement, with a fine of £91 million, is the tip of the iceberg.

“Other water companies have been prosecuted or have been implementing remedial works to prevent criminal prosecution.

“The current laws are being flouted. Any reforms must protect the environment and livelihoods of those who rely on it for work or leisure.

“The law is not ‘red tape’ that senior executives can choose to follow. And the health and safety of the public, including employees in both the water companies and the Environment Agency, is not something that can be ignored.”

UNISON’s water, environment and transport (WET) NEC member John Jones added: “It is criminal that the senior management responsible for criminal actions are also able to receive massive bonuses at the same time as they were ruining the environment for all.”