House of Lords give damning assessment of Therese Coffey’s dealings with water companies

Committee slam a 'lack of leadership and deep-rooted complacency'

A House of Lords committee has given a damning judgement into the work of environment secretary Therese Coffey, finding ‘deep-rooted complacency’ in government dealings with water companies.

This has come at the risk of water shortages and extreme environmental consequences, the industry and regulators’ committee found, due to a ‘lack of leadership’ in government which has meant water companies have failed to protect the environment and the water supply.

In a letter to Coffey, the committee warned that a continued under-investment in water infrastructure will have ‘serious long-term consequences for the environment and the security of water supplies’, risking future water shortages.

The inquiry was launched in June as a follow-up to a previous report titled ‘The affluent and the effluent: cleaning up the failures of water regulation’ which concluded large scale failures in the water system from under-investment and insufficient government strategy.

Since further developments in water regulations have come to light, the committee launched another inquiry, now revealing more damning assessments into the governments incompetence at handling the water industry crisis.

Lord Hollick, chair of the committee, said they had concluded unanimously that there is ‘insufficient policy or drive to meet the Government’s targets’ in the water sector, despite the government beginning to set out a ‘vision’.

“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,” slammed Hollick.

“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.”

The letter also expressed ‘dismay’ at the ‘unnecessary’ delay in banning wet wipes containing plastics, and concluded that a ‘lack of confidence’ from Ofwat and the Environment Agency was ‘holding back nature and catchment-based approaches’.

Further disappointment was aimed at the government’s failure to introduce a single social tariff to support those struggling to pay their bills, whilst the committee warned that water bills are likely to increase.

(Image credit: Sky News / YouTube)

Hannah Davenport is news reporter at Left Foot Forward, focusing on trade unions and environmental issues

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