I was shocked to see the result this week of the investigation by the water and sewage regulator Ofwat, into Southern Water’s business practices over a seven-year period, from 2010 to 2017. The company has been hit with a record fine of £126m as a punishment for spills of wastewater into the environment from its sewage plants. Ofwat has also found that Southern Water deliberately misreported its performance by manipulating its wastewater sampling process. This meant that it was providing inaccurate information about a number of sewage treatment sites, to create a more favourable impression of the effectiveness of their operation. Southern Water’s failure to operate its wastewater treatments works properly has meant that there have been unpermitted and premature spills of wastewater from those treatment works - where wastewater has not gone through all of the processes it is supposed to before being released into the environment.
The scandal here is not just their failure as a business, but the deliberate attempt to cover up for their mistakes, despite the detrimental impact they were having on their customers and the environment. The £126million penalty levied on the company will take the form of a direct fine to be paid to the regulator, and a rebate to customers, which will see each one receive at least £61 deducted from their bills over the next five years. Southern Water’s new management team need to work with Ofwat to put right what has gone wrong. Any further failings from the company on this scale, should seem them lose their operating license. This case further underlines the important work that independent regulators do to hold companies like Southern Water accountable for their actions.
In more positive news I was delighted to see that passengers using Folkestone West railway station will benefit from a substantial grant from the government, to create a new hub for cyclists. Following a successful bid by Southeastern trains, the station will receive £66,000 of funding from the Department for Transport, supplemented by a further £24,000 funded by the Community Infrastructure Levy. The new hub will mean 40 new spaces for cyclists, supporting sustainable, environmentally-friendly travel to the station. The hub will also include a repair stand and a pump and will be protected by a swipe card entry system and CCTV.
Finally, I was very sad to learn in the last week about the passing of Reg Belcourt, who had previously served for 16 years as a member of Hythe Town Council. Reg was also a prominent Rotarian, member of the Chamber of Commerce and for many years was responsible for the Christmas lights and Hythe in Bloom. With his late wife Keren, they brought up five children of their own, as well as providing a home for many more that they fostered. Reg was much loved and truly gave back a huge amount to this community. He will be greatly missed by all of his family and friends.