Edward Batterbury, Labour campaigner in Eastney and Craneswater has today slammed the Lib Dem’s record ontackling sewage dumping, following a non-answer at Portsmouth City Council meeting today


It comes as Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson, former Leader of Portsmouth City Council, failed to answer during a council meeting today [Tuesday 19 March] what progress he and the Lib Dem administration has made since he proposed ‘buying out’ Southern Water in 2021 as a solution to tackling untreated sewage discharges into Langstone Harbour.

The former Lib Dem leader stated he was willing to write to other council leaders across the region “to see if we can buy [it] out”. At the meeting today he said just one council responded – meaning many Lib Dem run councils failed to do so.

Since 2021, residents in Portsmouth have seen a continuation of sewage discharges polluting our bathing waters, ruining the health of local people and affecting our local economy.

The BBC further reported that in 2022 Southern Water discharged sewage 63 times for a total of 792 hours – or the equivalent of 33 continuous days. This was a year after Cllr Vernon-Jackson said he would sort this problem out.

The record level of sewage dumping in Portsmouth and across the country is understood to be a result of decades of underinvestment and huge dividends payments to shareholders which were allowed to take off during thecoalition Government.

Annual dividends paid by companies between 2010 and 2022 reportedly averaged £1.83bn a year.

Macquarie, Australian infrastructure asset management firmand current owners of Southern Water, were exposed by the guardian as turning UK water into a cash cow with a pattern of borrowing against their assets to increase dividend payments to shareholders during their ownership of Thames Water from 2006-2017.

By the time Macquarie sold its stake in Thames Water in 2017, debts had more than tripled from £3.2bn to £10.5bn, unadjusted for inflation.

Mr Batterbury said the current Tory Government and former coalition partners the Lib Dems have overseen a huge rise in sewage discharges, record leaks from pipes and left treatment plants in a state of disrepair.

Taking to raising these concerns at Full Council with a public question to the council administration, commenting, Edward Batterbury, said:


Portsmouth people are rightly concerned by the level of sewage we’ve seen dumped into our bathing waters in recent years, and rightly disappointed by the empty promises made by local Lib Dems. Residents have had enough.

Unfortunately, Cllr Vernon-Jackson’s unrealistic proposal to buy out Southern Water was little more than a shameful distraction from their own record in Government, overseeing underinvestment, aggressive cost-cutting and huge dividend payments to water bosses.

Only Labour has a plan to end sewage dumping once and for all. Labour’s Water Quality Bill will deliver mandatory monitoring on all sewage outlets, introduce automatic fines for discharges, set ambitious targets for stopping systematic sewage dumping and ensure that water bosses are held to account for negligence”.

Labour’s plan to clean up the Tory sewage scandal which would:


Deliver mandatory monitoring of all sewage outlets
Give the Environment Agency the power to properly enforce the rules
Introduce a legally binding target to end 90% of sewage discharges by 2030
Introduce automatic fines for discharges, and a standing charge penalty for discharge points without monitoring in place
Ensure any failure to improve is paid for by eroding dividends, not added to customer bills, or hitting vital investment in the system
Water bosses that routinely and systematically break the rules will be held professionally and personally accountable, by striking off company directors and ensuring illegal activity is punished
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