Thames Water popularity in the gutter as boss quits amid sewage upheaval

Thames Water’s popularity has not yet recovered from negative press, as the company is hit with fresh criticism amid fears it could collapse after its boss quit over sewage spills.

Research from YouGov BrandIndex examined popularity metrics such as reputation, value for money and net quality – Thames Water’s score fell on every account, with the company dropping 7.3 points overall,  from -1.2 in July 2022 to -8.3 in late June 2023.

This firm’s most recent drop has coincided with events that led to chief executive Sarah Bentley quitting this week over its environmental track record. The move came just days after a freedom of information request by The Guardian newspaper revealed that the water company had reported the highest rate of sewage leaks in the past five years.

The data also revealed that the water company was least popular in July 2022, following a report in The Times which highlighted that water companies were leaking an average 2.4 billion litres of water a day, and September 2022 when a hosepipe ban also saw the company’s popularity drop.

Following Bentley’s resignation, the water company is currently in crisis talks with the regulation body Ofwat, which governs the privatised water sector, over its ability to continue operating without a cash injection.


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In a statement Ofwat said: “Over the last day or so, there has been a lot of commentary about financial resilience in the water sector with considerable focus on Thames Water in particular.”

“We have been clear that Thames Water has significant issues to address – their environmental record and leakage performance, for example, are poor. Alongside the turnaround of their operational performance they need to improve their financial resilience too.”

“But that is in the context of a company that has strong liquidity – it recently received an additional £500 million from shareholders and has £4.4 billion of cash and committed funding”.

Campaigners including former Undertones singer and keen fly fisher Feargal Sharkey and the group Surfers Against Sewage have long been campaigning on the issue of sewage spills by water companies, including Thames Water.

In response to this week’s news, Surfers Against Sewage said: “Bills set to soar. CEOs resigning. Companies riddled with debt. Pollution rife up and down the country. For too long, water companies, regulators and the gov have been presiding over a broken system. It’s time for them to make the reforms we need to end sewage pollution”.

Feargal Sharkey has spoken out against Ofwat and said that prime minister Rishi Sunak should seize control of Thames Water, criticising privatised water companies.

Nature and the environmentNewsPolicy

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