Ed Davey falls into Lake Windermere as he reveals Lib Dem plan to fix sewage crisis

Liberal Democrats want to abolish Ofwat and ban bonuses for water company chief executives

Claudia Savage
Tuesday 28 May 2024 14:57 BST
Ed Davey falls off paddleboard as Lib Dems campaign in Lake District

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey took a dive into Lake Windermere while paddleboarding as he outlined his party’s plan to tackle the sewage crisis.

Local Lib Dem candidate Tim Farron joined his party leader at Low Wood Bay Watersports Centre where the pair had mixed success, being pictured taking multiple plunges.

During his visit to the Lake District, Sir Ed said local environmental experts should be represented on water companies’ boards to ensure sewage spills are taken seriously, as he accused Conservative ministers of “sitting on their hands”.

Under the Lib Dems’s plans, local environment experts within the community would sit on utility firms’ boards as non-executive directors to “improve public accountability and transparency”.

The experts would also be expected to hold community meetings to report back on action being taken.

The Lib Dem leader enjoyed mixed success on the lake
The Lib Dem leader enjoyed mixed success on the lake (Peter Byrne/PA)

In the run-up to the general election, the Lib Dems have unveiled plans to abolish Ofwat and introduce a new water regulator to tackle the sewage crisis, in addition to banning bonuses for water company chief executives.

According to the Environment Agency, sewage spills into England’s rivers and seas more than doubled in 2023 with 3.6 million hours of spills last year – equal to about 400 years – compared with 1.75 million hours in 2022.

Sir Ed said: “Water companies are getting away with this national sewage scandal whilst Conservative MPs and ministers have just sat on their hands.

Davey wants to abolish Ofwat
Davey wants to abolish Ofwat (Reuters)

“These disgraced firms are destroying our treasured lakes and rivers with their filthy sewage dumping – hitting human health, harming our precious environment and damaging the local tourism economy all at the same time.

“Enough is enough. It’s time to get tough on the water industry and a key part of that change must be new ways to hold these firms to account, putting power in the hands of the local communities suffering from this scandal.

“Local environmental experts on company boards could hold water bosses’ feet to the fire and local people would finally have a say in how their water company is run.

Davey in Lake Windermere
Davey in Lake Windermere (Reuters)

“Liberal Democrats will have the boldest manifesto plans to end the sewage scandal – from a tough new regulator to a ban on greedy exec bonuses to holding water bosses properly to account.

“This election will be about saving our country’s precious environment for the next generation, not least in special places like the Lake District.”

Sir Ed visited the Lake District, where protests have taken place outside the office of water company United Utilities, after it was accused of pumping sewage into Unesco-protected lakes.

According to Liberal Democrat analysis of Companies House records, United Utilities has made £2.3bn in operating profits since 2019 and paid its top executives more than £2m in bonuses.

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