Severn Trent has admitted the sector should have moved quicker to tackle sewage spills into UK seas as it anticipated the “biggest investment period the sector has ever seen”. It came as the water supplier revealed an increase in its profit and turnover and plans to boost capital investment by up to £1 billion.
The utility giant also plans to create 1,000 new jobs and said it will increase its existing financial support for up to 50,000 of customers who need it most. It said it had made improvements to its sewage network, but said sewer flooding remained a “key focus area”.
The business said: “As a sector, we recognise that we should have given sewage activations much more attention and acted faster, and we want to be a driving force for positive change.”
The company, which provides water services in England and Wales, has been among the water giants coming under fire for failing to effectively tackle spills in rivers and beaches.
It contributed to “monster” sewage dumps in England’s rivers and seas last year, spilling more than 6,600 hours’ worth of sewage into a brook in Rutland, according to the Liberal Democrats’ analysis of Environment Agency data last month.
Suppliers are under pressure to modernise the Victorian-era sewage networks.
Severn Trent said it had significantly reduced sewage spillages and was investing billions in its region to improve water and waste services.
Chief executive Liv Garfield said: “We are expecting the biggest investment period the sector has ever seen, with a focus on water resources, improving environmental standards and on net zero, and we feel more than ready for this exciting opportunity ahead of us.”
Capital investment could reach between £850 million and £1 billion over the next financial year, according to the firm’s guidance.
It also said it had ramped up financial support for customers, amid plans to help support 100,000 people out of poverty by 2032.
The FTSE 100-listed firm reported a profit before tax and interest of £509 million for the year to the end of March, and an 11% boost in turnover to £2.2 billion.
The improved financial performance came despite facing extreme weather conditions and rocketing energy prices, Ms Garfield said.
She said: “This year has been a true test of water resilience for the sector, with some of the hottest and driest months ever experienced over the summer, followed by a sharp cold snap and rapid thaw over the winter.”
Yet the supplier has kept water flowing and not enforced a hosepipe ban for nearly 30 years, she added.
On the jobs front Ms Garfield said: “Creating job opportunities, continuing significant regional investment, and financially supporting more customers than ever before is made possible by the strong results we have delivered this year.
“At a time when unemployment rates in our region are increasing and the cost-of-living crisis is still front and centre of many customers’ minds, we are proud to be able to create 1,000 jobs in our region over the next couple of years and to further help up to 50,000 customers with financial support.
“This, coupled with our long-term programme to help people into work, go towards truly supporting the communities we serve.”