England

Southern Water: Company fined £126m admits 'falling short'

sewage water stock image Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Southern Water has apologised for its failings

Southern Water has admitted falling "far short of the expectations and trust" of its customers, in its first annual report since being fined a record £126m for sewage spills.

Last month, water regulator Ofwat found Southern's failings included not making the necessary investment, which led to equipment failures and spillages.

Southern said: "There are no excuses for failings between 2010 and 2017."

The company has agreed a package of rebates for its customers.

In its report, it promised to "make amends" to customers and included figures showing customer satisfaction steadily increased over the last year, with a 27% reduction in written complaints.

Ofwat found the company systematically covered up sewage spills between 2010 and 2017 and criticised "failings in corporate culture and governance".

During that period, it recorded mostly healthy profits and, for six of those years, was run by Matthew Wright, who received almost £2m in pay in 2014.

Southern Water is responsible for the public wastewater collection and treatment in Hampshire, the Isle of Wight, West Sussex, East Sussex and Kent.

Last month, the Environment Agency launched a criminal investigation off the back of Ofwat's findings.

In Southern Water's report it claimed that during 2018-19 it spent £400m on infrastructure.

It stated climate change and population growth were "the defining challenge facing our industry", after Sir James Bevan, head of the Environment Agency, claimed England could run out of water in less than 25 years.

A company spokesman said: "Southern Water is changing at pace. We are improving our performance across several key areas and investing in a future which benefits our customers and the environment."

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