COMMENT: People feel bill strike is the only way to get action

The persistent dumping of raw sewage into the waters around Portsmouth has got a lot of people very angry.

Thursday, 18th November 2021, 12:00 am

At a time when we're all being told we need to be more environmentally-friendly, Southern Water has been found to be anything but.

Earlier this year, it was fined a record £90m for pumping untreated sewage into the sea for the past 10 years.

So not an isolated incident or two, but seemingly a company policy over an entire decade.

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Yet a recent bill designed to tackle the problem saw MPs controversially dilute proposals to make water companies more accountable – and for some residents, it's the final straw.

The chief executive of Southern Water may seek to excuse his company's actions by claiming that reducing storm overflow discharges is a ‘task of scale and complexity and needs multi-sector collaboration’.

But many people in Portsmouth have heard enough.

They are fed up of the actions of a big corporation blighting our waters and coastline.

That is the sentiment behind talk of a bill strike.

At a public meeting hosted by Portsmouth South MP Stephen Morgan, more than a third of the 100-strong audience indicated they would be in favour of withholding payments.

Among them was Portsmouth city councillor Judith Smyth.

This is not some token gesture. People are prepared to take action to make the point that the pollution must stop and that a percentage of water bills must go towards modernising the infrastructure for dealing with sewage.

Mr Morgan warns that a bill strike could negatively impact residents and says it would be ‘a failure of Southern Water if people feel they have no other action but to stop paying their bills’.

But isn't that the whole point?