COMMENT: How on earth did Southern Water get in this position?

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It hasn’t been a good week for Southern Water. Actually, it hasn’t been a good decade.  Over the past seven days, the picturesque Hayling Island village of Stoke experienced its ‘worst ever’ sewage leak when waste surged up through a manhole cover and poured into a drainage ditch surrounding people’s homes – for 36 hours.  

No doubt there were countless calls and complaints from residents kicking up a stink.

Which won’t help the under-fire firm which has now been named the worst rated company for complaints, a new Consumer Council for Water report has found.

It’s the sixth year in a row Southern has been sitting at the bottom of the list.

The company says the overall number of complaints are down.

But in 2017-18 it received 248,936 phone calls from customers chasing problems, up from 220,306 the year before. 

The figures are staggering. 

It languishes at the bottom of the league table of water firms, which is a disgrace. 

Over the years The News has doggedly followed Southern’s lack of action when it comes to the regular unlawful discharges into Langstone Harbour. 

Eagle-eyed fishermen report spillages as soon as they spot them, and they are reported in these pages. 

Southern has been fined many times over failures at pumping stations, for polluting beaches, the list goes on. 

It begs the question, why can’t this enormous, multi-million pound company get its act together?

Southern’s chief customer officer Simon Oates says they are undergoing a ‘period of significant transformation’ and they are ‘passionate’ about engaging directly with customers and communities to help improve our services now and in the future 

Unless they want to make it a seventh year at the bottom they need to speed those changes up.