Solent sewage dumping sees growing calls for Southern Water bill strike at Portsmouth MP's public meeting

SOUTHERN Water’s dumping of raw sewage in the waters around the city has increasing numbers of customers favouring a bill strike in protest.

By Richard Lemmer
Wednesday, 10th November 2021, 11:15 pm
Updated Thursday, 11th November 2021, 8:52 am

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

Earlier this year, Southern Water was fined a record was fined a record £90m for pumping untreated sewage into the UK’s waters over the last decade, with campaigners spending years highlighting the blight on the Solent and surrounding shorelines.

A recent bill designed to tackle the problem saw MPs alter accountability for water companies – and now residents are increasingly fed-up with the lack of action.

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Portsmouth South MP Stephen Morgan hosted the meeting on sewage pollution in the Solent. Picutre: Richard Lemmer

Among them was Portsmouth City Councillor Judith Smyth, who said she was considering withholding payments to Southern Water.

Cllr Smyth said: ‘I am seriously considering cancelling my Direct Debit – they are so unaccountable at the moment.

‘They only thing we can do is withdraw our payments.

‘I think I wouldn’t want to start the campaign, because it could cause immense financial distress for some people.’

Southsea resident Seb Bagnall, a keen kite-surfer and swimmer, as well as a member of environmental groups in the area, said the bill strike proposal was ‘definitely picking up momentum.’

The 39-year-old said: ‘I have heard a lot about this recently... it potentially will happen, and it goes to show how serious people are.

‘I would probably do it myself – we don’t have a choice who we use as a water company.

‘But at the end of the day, they will still get the money off us in the long run. They need to be held accountable that a certain percentage of our water bill goes towards modernising...the infrastructure.’

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Portsmouth South MP Stephen Morgan was concerned that a bill strike could negatively impact residents and said it would be ‘a failure of Southern Water if people feel they have no other action but to stop paying their bills’.

The Labour MP said: ‘It’s important that people share their dissatisfaction with Southern Water – and there’s lots of different ways to do that.

‘Not paying bills has consequences, and I would worry about the impact on people in the city.’

The MP added that it was ‘shameful’ that other MPs in the area voted to amend a cross-party bill on the issue, with the amendment seen by campaigning groups as watering-down measures to tackle the problem.

Attendees at the meeting also heard from the founder of the sea pollution group Final Straw Solent, Bianca Carr, who said a recent beach clean had unearthed more than 5,000 cotton buds in a one metre by 10 metre strip of beach.

She said: ‘It was unbelievable. And there was only one way they could have got on the beach.

‘Something needs to be done to stop the dumping in the waters.’

Several MPs in the area have held meetings on Southern Water.

Its chief executive yesterday said reducing storm overflow discharges is a ‘task of scale and complexity and needs multi-sector collaboration’.

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