Greens call for accountability and compensation from Southern Water, Labour bottles it on public ownership of water companies

In a proposal to full council, Green Councillors highlight the ongoing dumping of raw sewage in the sea and call for compensation for the city and public ownership of water companies 

Today Green Councillors made a proposal to Full Council that would have committed the council to redouble efforts seeking compensation for the city from Southern Water. The Green motion also demanded public ownership of water companies, calling on national parties to support this in the next General Election. Labour refused to do so.

This follows growing outrage across the city at the fact that raw sewage continues being dumped into our seas by water companies such as Southern Water. Residents are rightly concerned that the city’s sea, waterways and water supplies are unsafe to use and damaging to natural habitats and the environment. This also has a significant impact on public health, both due to risk from infection and limiting access to exercise. In their amendment Labour backed Southern Water and claimed that resident concerns are understandable, but not correct.

Southern Water was privatised in 1989, which subjects vital supplies of water to market pressures in order to generate profit for shareholders. It is a private monopoly, meaning that there is simply no other choice for consumers than one water supplier than one unaccountable profiteering company. Greens argue that the combination of defunding, deregulation and privatisation is obliterating services across the country and allowing water companies to dump sewage with relative impunity. 

Labour pushed through an amendment to the motion that removed reference to public ownership, which Greens have criticised and highlight as an example of how Labour continue to pivot to the right under Starmer.

Cllr Pete West [he/him], who is proposing the motion, said: 

“Private monopolies, that no one can escape, are ripping us all off. Our water resources are being stretched by climate change, waste and lack of resilience. In Brighton & Hove there is particular concern about the impact of uncontrolled sewage outflows by Southern Water into the sea.  

“After 34 failed years of privatisation introduced by Thatcher, 69% of the public want our water back in public hands. Going by recent remarks from Keir Starmer and Labour’s amendment today, they bottled it and have kicked that question down the road.  

“Labour is committing to years more of failed service by private monopolies, pollution, divestment and damage to nature. Shame on them for prioritising private profits over public health.” 

Cllr Kerry Pickett [she/her], Green Environment Spokesperson, said: 

“The previous Green administration made great efforts to secure and implement a commitment for Southern Water to pay for compensation to the city through funding public toilets. It is important that this happens as soon as possible, so that the city gets some short-term relief. 

“But this is a continual problem that can’t go on. The city needs accountability and compensation; the only way we do that is to bring water under public ownership and remove the profit-making element from our water full stop. Any party that doesn’t accept that is not prepared to fix the problem.” 


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