Rivers and environment are at peril from nation’s lawmakers

CROYDON COMMENTARY: Public outrage and an MP’s letter to the water companies won’t keep our waterways clean, argues IAN KIERANS, who says that the weak regulatory system exists to protect big business and the status quo

Murky business: the River Wandle during a previous incident in 2020 when Thames Water allowed the chalk stream to be heavily polluted. Incidents occur repeatedly because the company is allowed to do it by law

Thames Water dumps effluent and endangers our communities and people at will.

But are they the culprit?

Sarah Jones MP wrote to Thames Water. What is interesting is that she chose to write to the company and not to the Environment Agency. Why? Perhaps it was because what occurred around the sewage outflow into the brook in a public park was legal.

The Environment Agency has a role and although in recent months taken action against some of the worst offenders, they are ineffectual.

I believe they are doing as much as they can with the resource they have. Hampering their efforts are a couple of key restraints, perhaps intentionally applied by government.

1. The legislation that allows this kind of dumping
2. The lack of resources for the EA to police large companies and monitor effectively their activities so as to prevent this (and other issues) from occurring

One could argue that the EA remit is not to protect the environment per se but to protect certain parts and allow ”legalised” detriment to occur.

There is a balance in society and for it to thrive there needs to be the understanding that to alienate sections of the population and ignore their needs and concerns openly or by stealth does not allow that society to thrive or grow,

The persistent erosion of accountability and responsibility by altering, weakening, tweaking or failing to resource processes to prevent or enforce laws has gone on long enough by our legislators.

Laws are made but neither prevention or enforcement of those laws are resourced. Even under Civil Law, with the constraints placed on litigators who have suffered extreme detriment and death, there is little chance of a successful prosecution, with the inordinate hurdles to meet statutory bars for the “normal”, non-millionaire residents.

Or in common vernacular, we all get treated like mushrooms – kept in the dark and fed shit!

Read more: After decades of clean-ups, we’re still polluting precious rivers
Read more: River from Tory Philp’s constituency runs brown with sewage

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News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
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7 Responses to Rivers and environment are at peril from nation’s lawmakers

  1. Clean water is a national resource. If Sarah Jones wants to look at the fundamentals she needs to be arguing within the Labour Party that a manifesto commitment is made to take the water companies back into public ownership, to control the £26 million paid out this year to just 4 of their chief executives, and also direct profits away from shareholders towards repairing the Victorian infrastructure. Given climate change, storm overflows will be more common and should not be mixed with domestic grey water and sewage. Similarly chalk streams etc should not be raided fir water supply in times of drought and desalination plants need to come back on stream ( forgive the pun).

  2. Martin Rosen says:

    Let’s be clear about how this situation has arisen. Way back in the 1980s Margaret Thatcher completed her fervent political wish to privatise as many of the nationalised companies as she could in the time available. The consequences of her success are varied – some privatisations have worked well, many have not – but the one that sticks out as a total disaster has been the Water industry.

    Maybe that is because they were left until last, and that was because Thatcher could not invent any scheme which incorporated capitalist competition in that industry. So rather than leave the water utilities alone, she completed her project by nominating those utilities as (uniquely) legal monopolies. That was an awful mistake.

    So Lewis White is right that the water companies need to be re-nationalised. They are an anachronism and simply a licence to print money for their managers and shareholders.

    And I also agree with George that only the Labour Party (and perhaps the Greens) have the will and the power to turn the clock back, and to revoke Thatcher’s misplaced zeal.

    • Chris Flynn says:

      As someone who was in short trousers in the 80s, which privatisations worked well?

      • As a person who was in long trousers when Thatcher sold off our national assets on the cheap, I can say that beforehand, we didn’t have polluted streams, we didn’t have profits going to foreign companies or being creamed off to line the pockets of shareholders, we didn’t have so many companies getting in on the act in that many of them went bust.

        What we did have was the state having to bail out private banks in 2009, ushering in more than a decade of austerity.

        Railway track maintenance got in such a mess that even a very Tory government had to essentially take it back into state control.

        You can never meet public need with private greed and many of our main economic competitors give far more state assistance to essential industries than we do.

        Try looking at the pie charts Inside Croydon has just provided on TfL as an example.

      • Don’t you mean: “Which privatisations worked, in the sense of working for the betterment of the whole nation, rather than the Thatcherite wideboys who made their millions by buying up shares on the cheap and flogging them on to overseas corporations for huge profit?”

      • Martin Rosen says:

        Chris, I offer the following list of successes:

        The star of the show is BT, which was split off from the Post Office (both having ‘belonged’ to the General Post Office) and given the telephone (and later the broadband) business. The previous. The telephone system of the UK had been awful – dilapidated, poorly serviced and very badly managed. It required massive immediate investment, and the future investment in computer services was just starting to be recognised. Today we have a world-leading international company which provides excellent products and the service to match them. The state would NEVER have provided the massive investment needed, nor the new technological management skills.

        Next I would place British Airways, which was widely considered to be a third-rate airline (just ask their commercial users) despite being a hugely expensive burden on the British taxpayer, and has transformed into an internationally excellently rated airline which costs the taxpayers not a penny of investment or running costs.

        Third would go to British Gas. Despite the current nightmare of energy price escalation (caused SOLELY by Putin’s policy) it is clear that the service level provided by British Gas is much better than that provided by the state-owned company; but again most importantly it would have proved impossible for the government to manage the major investment needed in that industry to cope with the ever-changing supply and delivery capabilities.

        There are others which I would rank as ‘broadly successful’ but three will, I think, make the point. It is essential to be aware that whether public or private, all industries will place a burden on the population – it’s just a matter of whether or not we can trust a political government to make the ‘right’ investment decisions (which means increasing taxes) or we allow shareholders (who are very often OUR pension funds) to make the ‘right’ investment choices (which means that they will benefit financially if the risks they take pay off).

  3. Feargal Sharkey, who is doing an outstanding job in publicising the sewage scandal and holding this rotten government to account (unlike the useless, silent Labour “Opposition”) put it best. “The plan never was to protect the environment, it was always about protecting the water companies.”

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