Thérèse Coffey ‘complacent’ in dealing with water companies, peers say | Thérèse Coffey

Thérèse Coffey has been “complacent” in coping with water corporations, risking water shortages in addition to excessive environmental penalties, a Home of Lords committee has stated.

In a letter to the setting secretary, the friends criticised her division’s “dismissive brevity and complacent tone” in response to their report revealed earlier this yr, which discovered water corporations had been too targeted on maximising monetary returns on the expense of the setting.

Throughout an inquiry into Ofwat, the water regulator, the Home of Lords business and regulators’ committee discovered a “lack of leadership and deep-rooted complacency” within the authorities, which was resulting in failure by water corporations to guard provide and the setting.

The letter despatched to Coffey stated: “We object to the apparent insinuation that our conclusions and recommendations were outside the scope of our inquiry, which appears to be an attempt to avoid parliamentary scrutiny.”

The committee additionally stated within the letter that underinvestment in water infrastructure would have critical long-term penalties for the setting and the safety of water provides, risking the potential of future water shortages.

Although the Division for Surroundings, Meals and Rural Affairs (Defra) revealed its plan for water earlier this yr, the committee discovered it missing and stated it will not resolve the issues plaguing the setting and customers.

The inquiry indicated that water payments wanted to rise to sort out underinvestment, which has triggered leaky pipes and sewage spills, however really useful {that a} single social tariff for many who would wrestle to pay payments was carried out so folks didn’t fall into debt.

Within the letter, the friends wrote: “The plan for water includes the acceleration of £1.6bn of new water company infrastructure but provides little information on how the government intends to tackle the trade-off between infrastructure investment and customer bills, instead expressing its hope to deliver ‘significant new investment’ without ‘disproportionately large increases to customer bills’.” The friends added that they have been disenchanted the federal government had dismissed the thought of a single social tariff.

Noting that “under present plans, the UK will not have built a single new major reservoir between 1991 and 2029”, the committee expressed alarm that the federal government didn’t appear to be planning to safe the water provide sufficiently to keep away from shortages. It stated: “Although the plan for water sets out proposals for reducing water demand, we share concerns that these policies are likely to be insufficient to meet the government’s targets.”

Clive Hollick, the chair of the business and regulators’ committee, stated: “While the government has begun to set out its vision for the sector, our cross-party committee has concluded unanimously that there is insufficient policy or drive to meet the government’s targets. Sadly, the only thing that is becoming clear in the murky, polluted waters of the sewage crisis is a lack of leadership and deep-rooted complacency.

“The government must therefore provide firmer policy detail and greater guidance to regulators, who cannot be left to resolve these huge challenges by themselves. In particular, the government must give clear guidance on the trade-off between much-needed investment and the level of customer bills. We look forward to the response from the secretary of state, setting out how she intends to do this.”

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A Defra spokesperson stated: “We take our oversight of the water industry incredibly seriously and firmly disagree with these conclusions.

“We are delivering increased investment, stronger regulation, and tougher enforcement right across the sector. This includes being the first government to set ambitious targets for water companies to address storm overflows, which the high court has ruled go even further than existing law.

“We agree that more needs to be done. That’s why we are introducing unlimited penalties for polluters, driving the largest infrastructure programme in water company history, and have set clear expectations for water companies to deliver the changes that we all want to see.”

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