Image source, Thames Water
By Faarea Masud
The chief executive of Thames Water has stepped down after two years in the role, weeks after giving up her bonus over sewage spills.
Thames Water said Sarah Bentley would leave with immediate effect, but would continue to support the firm until her replacement was found.
Last month Ms Bentley said she would forgo her bonus due to the company’s poor performance.
Raw sewage discharges into rivers had become a problem for the firm.
Thames Water is the country’s largest water company with around 15 million customers.
It plans to invest £1.6bn in its sewage treatment works over the next two years, and has a target of reducing the total duration of discharges across London and the Thames Valley by 2030.
In a statement, Ms Bentley said it had been “an honour to take on such a significant challenge”.
“The foundations of the turnaround that we have laid position the company for future success to improve service for customers and environmental performance. I wish everyone involved in the turnaround the very best.”
Image source, Getty Images
Image caption, Sewage was discharged into Earlswood brook from a pipe run by Thames Water in April
Chief finance officer Alastair Cochran will now take over as interim co-chief executive, and will run the company along with Cathryn Ross, the former Ofwat chief executive who joined the business in 2021.
Mr Cochran also gave up his bonus at the same time as Ms Bentley over the firm’s poor environmental performance and customer service.
Ms Bentley previously received £496,000 in performance-related bonuses in 2022, while Mr Cochran was paid £298,000 in bonuses.
In a statement in May, Thames Water said “extraordinary energy costs” and “two severe weather events” had affected customer service and environmental performance in 2022-23.
Earlier this month, school children were forced to abandon a day trip to study river ecosystems after heavy rain left a Wiltshire waterway flooded with sewage. Thames Water said it was investing in works to reduce the need for untreated discharges, including an upgrade in Marlborough.
Meanwhile, the company said in March that a sewage pipe in north Swindon which has burst four times in the past two years could take years to replace. Thames Water was forced to deploy 30 tankers to pump away waste water to prevent flooding to nearby properties.
Responding to Ms Bentley’s resignation, the Liberal Democrats’ environment spokesperson Tim Farron said: “This has to be a watershed moment for the scandal-ridden company. Thames Water is a complete mess and it’s time ministers stepped in to reform the firm from top to bottom. The days of profit before the environment must end.”
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