Taunton MP in LaLa land?

Yesterday in response to a question from Labour MP Dan Walton, Rebecca Pow addressed the House of Commons. He asked her about the financial resilience of water companies. Responding in her capacity as Minister State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs she said: ” The sector as a whole is financially resilient. Water companies are responsible for ensuring that they remain financially resilient, however, over recent years, as investment requirements have risen, Ofwat has taken further steps to strengthen the financial resilience of companies. This includes increasing its financial monitoring, improving levels of reporting transparency and strengthening the ring-fence licence conditions, which ensure the regulated company maintains sufficient financial and management resources which enable it to carry out its functions in a sustainable manner.

Government and Ofwat take the financial resilience of the water sector very seriously. Government gave new powers to Ofwat through the Environment Act and in March 2023, Ofwat set out new measures to increase financial resilience in the sector. This includes additional powers to stop water companies making dividend payments earlier if the company’s financial resilience is at risk….

She added that: “In addition, Ofwat has also tightened up the measures around water company executives’ bonuses so that Ofwat will make shareholders pay for bonuses, not the customer, where there is poor performance.”

This was in the same week that Chief executive Sarah Bentley and chief financial officer Alastair Cochran were awarded bonuses. Bentley was awarded £496,000 in remuneration linked to performance, Mr Cochran was awarded £298,000. The fact that both are minded not accept them is not the point. What is the point is that Pow and Ofwat failed to stop the award in the first place.

Why should they not have bonuses? Mainly because Thames faces financial difficulty. Despite the warm fuzzy words of the Minister. Between 2006 and September 2022, Thames Water’s debt pile grew from £3.2bn to £14.3bn. Most of its borrowing was taken out against its assets. Thames is widely rumoured to have a £10bn blackhole in its balance sheet. Attempts to raise equity to plug the gap have to date been unsuccessful.

This presumably is an example of the financial resilience Pow was speaking of in the Commons.


  • From a recent article by The Guardian political sketch writer:

    “The sense of pointlessness continued with an urgent question on the imminent collapse of Thames Water. Then, it could hardly be otherwise as Thérèse Coffey had thrown a sickie – does she actually ever do any work as environment secretary? – and had sent Rebecca Pow along instead.

    Pow is an interesting psychological case study. Even her shrink can’t decide whether she’s a very stupid person trying to be clever. Or a very clever person trying to be stupid. Or even if she’s human at all. No one can tell because she appears to be powered by 1980s beta AI.

    ‘Water is what makes life possible on this planet,’ she began. Seriously. It was as if Pow had chosen to look up water on Wikipedia just to make sure she knew what she was talking about. Or to prove that she didn’t. And she is the water minister. She was also keen to point out that things couldn’t be all bad because the water companies had borrowed more than £60bn. She didn’t seem to know that almost all that went on shareholder dividends.

    The shadow environment secretary, Jim McMahon, gently pointed out that everything couldn’t be fine. Water companies couldn’t sort out leaks, pumped sewage into rivers, were still broke and were planning on raising prices by 40%. Which bit of that did Pow not get? All of it. Most of our beaches were perfectly fine. No one had ever died from swimming in s***.

    A few Tories had stayed behind to give Pow support. Her carers, possibly. We were living in a different space-time continuum to the rest of the country. One where the government wasn’t in freefall. Wasting its own time. Just for the hell of it. Wasn’t the problem that there wasn’t enough regulation of the regulators?
    So who was going to regulate Ofwat? Take a bow OfWatTheF***”

  • Wouldn’t you have thought that the new regulatory powers and conditions for Ofwat, described by Pow in her latest 1980s beta AI speech, would have been in place from 1989 and certainly after the banking crisis in 2008 i.e. “Too big to fail” for a bank = “Too big to fail” for Thames Water!

    Not to mention new startup energy companies allowed by OfGem to be startups without capital and resilience – now those egregious losses in our bills as standing charges of around £300 a year, even if you use no energy whatsoever!

    No Lessons Ever Learned then……Or does the ideology of privatisation stand in the way of common sense?

    The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. – Albert Einstein

  • Graham Livings

    Some 279 Parishes in the Somerset Council area. Parish and Town councils raise their money by adding an extra cost known as a “precept” to council tax bills in each parish. Your parish share will be clearly shown on your council tax bill. Somerset Association of Local Councils/NALC the ‘representative’ institutions’. How many by ‘resolution/F.O.I’ enquired the ‘modus operandi’ the daily, transference from ‘historic-parish-sewage-works’ to ‘alternative’ disposal & locations?

    “Water, water, every where,
    And all the boards did shrink;
    Water, water, every where,
    Nor any drop to drink.

    The very deep did rot: O Christ!
    That ever this should be!
    Yea, slimy things did crawl with legs
    Upon the slimy sea.

    I looked upon the rotting sea,
    And drew my eyes away;
    I looked upon the rotting deck,
    And there the dead men lay”.

  • Rebecca Pow is a useless liar. The water companies’ owners have reduced investment and borrowed money to pay themselves £millions. It’s a scandal.

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