Call for Sewage Tax on Wessex Water after £160 million profit revealed

Sewage Outfall

South Gloucestershire Liberal Democrats have called for a ‘Sewage Tax’ on water companies to fund the cleaning up of rivers polluted by sewage dumps. 

It comes as the Liberal Democrats have revealed Wessex Water made a staggering £160.4 million in operating profits last year. The figures, taken from Company House records, also show the water firm made £516.9 million in revenue. 

The local Liberal Democrats have demanded a new tax on water companies’ profits after repeated sewage dumps in local rivers. The ‘Sewage Tax’ of 16% on water companies would create an emergency fund for cleaning up rivers. The policy was officially backed by the Liberal Democrats at their Spring Conference this weekend.

The Liberal Democrats also challenged the three local Conservative MPs - Luke Hall, Jack Lopresti and Chris Skidmore - to back calls for a Sewage Tax, after they refused to back tougher action against water companies that dump sewage in local rivers in a vote in Parliament last year.

New analysis by the Liberal Democrats has revealed Britain’s nine water companies made a total £2.8bn in combined operating profits last year. 

The move follows outrage at water companies discharging sewage into rivers over 400,000 times in 2020, according to the Environment Agency. Only 14% of England’s rivers are in good ecological health, according to the Rivers Trust. 

Leader of the Liberal Democrat Opposition Group on South Gloucestershire Council, Claire Youngsaid:

“These profits are absolutely scandalous. Our treasured local rivers have been polluted by disgusting sewage yet Wessex Water is raking in massive profits without taking any action. 

“People around here are furious at how badly Wessex Water treat our local environment.

“It is time our local Conservative MPs to finally stand up to the Government and Wessex Water. We need MPs willing to take action against these sewage dumps in our river.”

Leader of the Liberal Democrats Ed Davey MP said:

“An environmental disaster is taking place in our towns, cities and villages, yet the Government shows no signs of taking action.

“Last year the Government initially refused to ban sewage dumps in rivers, then they let water companies carry on as normal by failing to set meaningful timescales and targets. The very least they could do now is to force water companies to clean up their mess."

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Cut VAT to save families in South Gloucestershire £52 million say local Lib Dems

Piggy Bank

South Gloucestershire Liberal Democrats have demanded an emergency cut to VAT to protect local families from soaring bills and the Conservatives' worsening cost of living crisis.

The Liberal Democrats are calling for the standard rate of VAT to be reduced from 20% to 17.5% for one year, a move that would save households in South Gloucestershire an average of around £600 each. This would mean putting around £52,440,000 back in the pockets of 87,400 families in South Gloucestershire

The plans were set out by Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey at the party’s Spring Conference this weekend and have been backed by South Glos Council Liberal Democrat Opposition Leader, Claire Young.

It comes amid warnings that the war in Ukraine will worsen the cost of living pressures facing households, with energy, food and fuel bills all expected to rise. Inflation is also forecast to reach 8% in April, its highest level in decades.

The Lib Dem plans would support the economy by boosting spending at local high streets. The proposals would also be expected to keep inflation down by making the prices of everyday items lower than they would have been.

The emergency change to VAT could be introduced quickly and easily by the Chancellor for one year. South Gloucestershire’s Liberal Democrats have said he should use the Spring Statement coming up on March 23 to bring forward the change as well as scrapping the Conservative’s National Insurance tax hike, to bring much-needed respite to local families.

Cllr Young said:

“The Conservative cost of living crisis is hitting families hard and it is about to get worse. People across our community are worried about how to make ends meet as bills go through the roof.

“An emergency cut to VAT would offer a massive boost to people in South Gloucestershire feeling the pinch by putting £52 million back into their pockets. It would also support our treasured shops, cafes and restaurants by boosting spending on the high street.

“This is crunch time for the Chancellor and the Conservatives. Will they act or just inflict more financial pain on families by clobbering them with another unfair tax hike?”

Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey said:

“This is a once-in-a-generation crisis, and the government must step up to help struggling households and businesses on the brink. Instead of clobbering struggling families with a tax hike, the Chancellor should be putting money back into their pockets.”

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Scrapping of Covid tests: Almost 26,000 people in South Gloucestershire to face £500 tax on caring

Lateral Flow test

The Liberal Democrats have warned that the scrapping of Covid lateral flow tests will slap South Gloucestershire with a £14 million “tax on caring", with as many as 26,000 residents facing costs of over £500 a year to take regular tests and visit vulnerable relatives.

Despite the easing of Covid restrictions, the latest figures show that every week an estimated 25,972 people in South Gloucestershire take regular Covid tests, with 46,006 tests being taken in an average week. This includes people who take tests to protect their elderly relatives and friends, or vulnerable workers who work in people-facing industries such as hospitality and are concerned about their health. 

Analysis by the Liberal Democrats estimates that the 25,972 people in South Gloucestershire who take on average two tests a week face a hit of £534 a year, assuming lateral flow tests cost around £5.80 each. This represents a total ‘tax on caring’ for people in South Gloucestershire of almost £14 million each year.

These people are part of the almost four million across England facing costs of over £500 a year after the decision was taken to scrap lateral flow tests. The move will be of particular concern for the 15,775 in South Gloucestershire previously identified as clinically extremely vulnerable, after the government’s own scientific advisers on the SAGE committee warned that removing free testing will “increase anxiety” and limit the “social participation outside the home” of those who are clinically vulnerable or who live with someone who is.

Leader of the Liberal Democrat Opposition Group on South Gloucestershire Council, Claire Young, said:

“Charging people in South Gloucestershire for the tests they need to safely see vulnerable loved ones is a tax on caring, that risks leaving thousands in this area in lockdown by stealth.

“It means vulnerable people in our community will see fewer loved ones and will be able to enjoy less of their lives. It is unfair and unjust. 

“The three Conservative MPs in our area - Luke Hall, Jack Lopresti and Chris Skidmore - needs to make their voice heard and get behind scrapping these plans, to stop South Gloucestershire being hit with a cost of living with Covid crisis.

“Throughout the pandemic, the good people of South Gloucestershire have been trying hard to do the right thing and keep others safe. The Government should not be making that harder.”


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Lib Dem action to cut energy bills and carbon emissions

Energy Efficiency

South Gloucestershire’s Liberal Democrat Opposition has secured £110,000 extra funding to help local people cut their carbon footprints and reduce their energy bills.

Ahead of last night's meeting, the Liberal Democrat Group published plans to replace Conservative spin with action - cutting £45,000 per year from the Council’s public relations budget to fund a permanent, extra Domestic Retrofit Officer, to help local people make their homes more energy efficient.

They also proposed investing £10,000 in thermal imaging cameras to be loaned out by local libraries to help people understand where heat is lost from their homes and ringfencing for Climate and Ecological Emergency work money set aside by the council.

Following negotiations, and a promise that the thermal imaging cameras would be funded differently, tonight the Liberal Democrats won cross-party backing for an amendment to fund an extra new Domestic Retrofit Officer for two years.

Proposing the amendment Councillor Claire Young, Liberal Democrat Leader of the Opposition said:

It appears that our repeated calls for more funding for climate action are finally hitting home. We hope the Leader is now grasping that it is a genuine emergency requiring urgent action. But we think still more can be done, which is why we are proposing an amendment.

“Because we believe in action over spin, because we believe in tackling the Climate and Ecological Emergency and helping the just about managing cope with the rising cost of living, we have agreed a compromise.

“Faced with the choice of pushing for everything we wanted or compromising and getting real action for local people and the planet, we opted for the latter. Let’s help people who are struggling and help our planet too.”

Seconding the amendment Councillor Louise Harris, Shadow Cabinet Member for Community and Local Place said:

“We have been happy to help our residents – this is about action not spin. We are prepared to put our differences to one side in the interests of our residents and the planet.”

Commenting after the meeting Councillor Claire Young added:

“We are pleased to have secured an extra £110,000 to help people cut their carbon footprints and their energy bills.

“We believe that helping people cope with the rising cost of heating their homes and tackling the Climate and Ecological Emergency have to be priorities.

“We had hoped to cut the Council’s PR budget in order to make this Domestic retrofit Officer permanent. But in the spirit of actually getting things done, rather than grandstanding, we negotiated an agreement with the other groups on the Council.

“We will continue to push the administration to give the Climate and Ecological Emergency the priority it deserves and protect local residents from the worst of the alarming rise in the cost of living."

The Liberal Democrat Group also supported amendments from the Labour Group to roll out additional Climate Emergency workshops in schools and to help victims of serious sexual abuse.

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Almost 51,000 pensioners in South Gloucestershire left out in the cold as broken triple lock promise creates £1.1 million cost of living black hole

Elderly Couple

The Liberal Democrats have accused the Conservatives of leaving pensioners in South Gloucestershire with a “hole in their pocket” after breaking a manifesto promise to protect the State Pension.

In the wake of inflation hitting a thirty year high of 5.5% in January, a typical pensioner in South Gloucestershire is set to see their income fall by £171.60 this year in real terms. This is a total loss of income of £8.7 million between 50,961 pensioners in South Gloucestershire due to the Conservative government’s decision to break a key manifesto promise and scrap the triple lock on pensions.

Analysis by the Liberal Democrats has shown this broken promise will wipe out the “paltry support” being offered by the government to help pensioners cope with soaring energy bills. Even those pensioners who qualify for a council tax rebate will be left over £20 poorer in real terms, while those on the New State Pension will be left short-changed by £76.20. It means retirees in South Gloucestershire are facing down a £1,100,758 gulf between their lost pension income and support, with that gulf only set to widen further with the Bank of England forecasting inflation in April of 7.25%.

South Gloucestershire Liberal Democrats are calling on the Government to row back on their broken promise and guarantee a fairer increase to the state pension. The party is also calling for a doubling and expansion to the Warm Home Discount, giving 20,317 households in South Gloucestershire £300 each off their heating bills this year and a doubling of the Winter Fuel Allowance, to the benefit of 20,690 households.

Leader of the Liberal Democrat Opposition Group on South Gloucestershire Council, Claire Youngsaid:

“These figures expose a black hole in the Government’s cost of living package for pensioners.

“In breaking their manifesto promise and failing to protect the state pension, the Conservatives have plunged older people in South Gloucestershire into the depths of a cost of living crisis. Their paltry support doesn’t even begin to cover the additional costs people are facing during this cold and bitter winter. 

“Pensioners are among the most vulnerable people in South Gloucestershire. This out of touch Government has left them out in the cold, with a hole in their pocket and even harsher days ahead.

“It’s high time the Government showed some common sense and ensured a fair increase to the state pension. But we also need to see something much more ambitious to help pensioners in South Gloucestershire. Doubling the Warm Home Discount and Winter Fuel Allowance, funded through a Robin Hood tax on the super-profits of oil and gas giants, would be a good place to start.”

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