As drought hits, how much are chief executives of UK water companies paid? | Executive compensation and bonuses

Britain’s biggest water companies are under the spotlight as the country stifles during what could become the worst drought in 500 years, with watering bans introduced across much of England to try to deal with shortages.

Anger is growing at the huge sums handed over to their shareholders and executives, given the companies’ record of fighting leaks and pollution and their failure to build more tanks. Politicians and activists are calling on water company bosses to ban their bonuses until they tackle these issues.

The bosses of England’s privatized water companies have come under fire for racking up £58m in wages and benefits over the past five years. Since the privatization, shareholders have received £72 billion in dividends. The money came from big debt, with companies borrowing £56billion, and big bills, with prices up 40%. So exactly how much do different companies pay their bosses?

Thames water

Area: Greater London, parts of Kent, Essex and Gloucestershire
General director: Sarah Bentley
Pay: £2 million
Mandate: September 2020-present

Sarah Bentley joined Thames Water with a £3.1million ‘golden hello’. Photography: Thames Water

Bentley snagged £2m in salary and bonuses last year. She held senior roles at telecoms giant BT, consultancy Accenture and Severn Trent Water before joining Thames Water with a ‘golden hello’ of £3.1million, including two one-off payments of £727 000 pounds sterling. Last year the company was fined £4million for discharging raw sewage into two Oxford waterways.

English Water

Area: East of England including Norfolk and Cambridgeshire
General director:Peter Simpson
Pay: £1.3m
Mandate: 2013-present

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Peter Simpson has been awarded a £337,651 bonus despite the company’s poor pollution record. Photography: Anglian Water

Simpson led the band for almost a decade, and was its general manager before that. He is a former chairman of the Water Institute and came under fire last month when the Guardian revealed he landed a £337,651 bonus after the company recorded one of the industry’s worst pollution records.

Thirty Severn

Area: Stretches from the Bristol Channel to the Humber and from Mid Wales to the East Midlands
General director:Liv Garfield
Pay: £3.9 million
Mandate: 2014-present

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Liv Garfield, from Severn Trent, who was fined £1.5million last year for dumping sewage in Worcestershire. Photography: Bloomberg/Getty

Garfield was previously managing director of BT’s infrastructure arm, Openreach. The Everton fan said she was not a fan of heat waves and that “best weather for water companies is 17 degrees and drizzle”. Last year the company was fined £1.5million for discharging sewage in Worcestershire.


Area: South West England
General director: Susan Davy
Pay: £1.6m
Mandate: 2020-present

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Susan Davy of South West Water has been criticized for pollution levels. Photography: Severn Trent

Davy joined the group as chief financial officer of South West Water, which Pennon owns, in 2007 becoming group chief financial officer and then group boss. She said she became aware of the water industry when the mid-1990s drought raised concerns about water rationing. She entered the industry as a junior accountant with Yorkshire Water. South West Water has come under criticism over pollution levels affecting beaches in Cornwall and Devon.

Wessex Water

Area: Parts of South West England including Dorset, Somerset and Wiltshire
General director: Colin Skellet
Pay: £975,000 last year
Mandate: 1988-present

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Colin Skellet with David Cameron in 2011. Photograph: PA/Alamy

Skellett is a scientist and engineer who in 1989 took the company private. Wessex Water has issued a warning over ‘non-essential’ water use and it has a 40ft swimming pool at its home in a village outside Bath, believed to be worth over £3million sterling. Wessex Water was paid £975,000 for raw sewage spills in Dorset in 2018.

United Public Services

Area: North West England
General director: Steve Mogford
Pay: £3.2m
Mandate: 2011-present

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Steve Mogford of United Utilities.

Mogford spent his early career in the aerospace and defense industry, including positions at British Aerospace, BAE Systems and SELEX Galileo, where he was Managing Director. He is due to retire in 2023, when he will be replaced by director of customer service and human resources, Louise Beardmore, which means that all but one of the most senior roles at FTSE-listed UK water companies, will be occupied by women.

Northumbrian Water

Area: North East England, Essex, Suffolk
General director: Heidi Mottram
Pay: £648,000
Mandate: 2010–present

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Heidi Mottram apologized in January after a worker nearly lost a leg when hit by a 1.5 tonne pipe. Photography: Medicimage Education/Alamy

Mottram is CEO of Northhumbrian Water Group, which includes Essex and Suffolk Water. It obtained an OBE in 2010 for services to the rail industry and a CBE in 2018 for services to the water industry and businesses. In January she issued a “personal and sincere” apology after a worker nearly lost a leg when he was hit by a 1.5 tonne pipe. The company was fined £365,000 over the incident.

South Water

Area: Hampshire, West Sussex, Isle of Wight, parts of Kent
General director: Laurent Gosden
Pay: Undisclosed
Mandate: July 1-present

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Lawrence Gosden of Southern Water.

Gosden recently took over from Ian McAulay, who is retiring at the end of the year and who won over £1million last year. Gosden began his career at Southern as a graduate and spent 12 years at Thames Water. Last year Southern was fined a record £90million for deliberately dumping sewage into the sea.

Yorkshire Water

Area: Yorkshire, North Lincolnshire, Derbyshire
General director: Nicholas Shaw
Pay: Undisclosed
Mandate: May 9-present

Portrait taken at a train station
Nicola Shaw is a former executive director of National Grid UK. Photograph: Graham Turner/The Guardian

Shaw took over from Liz Barber earlier this year. The former National Grid UK chief executive, who was also head of High Speed ​​1, is set to receive a similar salary to her predecessor, who received £1.4million.

Scottish water

Area: Scotland
General director: Douglas Millican
Pay: £558,000
Mandate: 2013-present

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Douglas Millican of Scottish Water. Photography: Scottish Water

Millican was chief financial and regulatory officer for Scottish Water, a public entity, from its inception in 2002 until taking up the post nine years ago. Company executives have come under fire for receiving a £10,000 ‘car benefit’ during the pandemic. Last year the company was fined £6,700 after acknowledging a water pollution incident in which at least 500 fish died.

Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water

Area: Wales
General director: Peter Perry
Pay: £675,000
Mandate: 2020-present

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Peter Perry of Welsh Water.

The company has 3 million customers and is run on a not-for-profit basis. However, Perry’s company has been urged to take action after an increase in pollution incidents. Perry is a water industry lifer, having held positions with United Utilities in Scotland and Ireland.

Northern Ireland Water

Area: North Ireland
General director: Sara Venning
Pay: £210,000 to £215,000
Mandate: 2014-present

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Sara Venning, from Northern Ireland Water. Photograph: Department of Energy/PA

Northern Ireland Water has never been privatised, leaving Venning with a salary which – although high compared to the average salary in the UK – is modest by industry standards. The former Northern Ireland Electricity executive’s first job was at her grandfather’s clothing shop, Eastwoods Clothing Co in Cookstown, County Tyrone.

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