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BT Group chief executive Jansen to step down next year | Business News

BT Group has kicked off a formal search for a successor to Philip Jansen, its chief executive, as he weighs a number of job opportunities in the US.

Sky News has learnt that BT is working with the search firm Spencer Stuart on a process to identify a successor to Mr Jansen, who took on the role in 2019.

City sources said this weekend that Mr Jansen had signalled to BT’s board that he was likely to step down at some point in 2024.

An announcement about the succession process could be made within weeks and potentially as early as next week, when BT holds its annual general meeting, they added.

Mr Jansen is understood to be undecided about whether to continue his executive career or pursue chairmanship roles.

In recent days, there has been speculation that he could return to Worldpay – the payments group he ran prior to his appointment at BT – after its $18.5bn (£14.4bn) purchase by the private equity firm GTCR.

One source said Mr Jansen had also recently turned down an offer of a CEO role at a major US technology company.

Investors’ attention will turn to the likely candidates to succeed Mr Jansen, with BT’s board said to have been engaged.

A number of external figures are already said to have been approached by Spencer Stuart, while frontrunners are expected to include Marc Allera, who runs BT’s consumer business, and Alison Kirkby, the boss of Swedish telecoms group Telia Company.

Ms Kirkby is already a non-executive director on the board of BT.

BT Group logo. Pic: BT Group
An announcement about the succession process could be made within weeks. Pic: BT Group

Mr Jansen’s departure will come roughly five tumultuous years after he took up the post, replacing Gavin Patterson.

The BT chief is said by people close to the company to be disappointed at the performance of its shares during his tenure, with the stock closing on Friday at 122.5p, giving it a market capitalisation of just over £12bn.

There has been growing speculation about a takeover bid for BT, prompting the board – led by chairman Adam Crozier – to hire defence advisers.

Patrick Drahi, the French-Israeli billionaire, controls roughly 25% of BT, having built the stake through his vehicle Altice UK during the last two years.

The government would carefully scrutinise any foreign bid for the company, given its critical role in Britain’s national infrastructure.

Deutsche Telekom, the German telecoms giant, also holds a 12% stake in BT, and has indicated its interest in a future deal of some kind.

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Mr Jansen has engineered a reshaping of the company, announcing that its workforce would shrink by as many as 55,000 people by the end of the decade amid a boom in artificial intelligence and as its full-fibre broadband rollout comes to an end.

He has sanctioned an acceleration of its investment in high-speed broadband, setting a target of connecting 25 million homes by the end of 2026.

He has also crunched its underperforming Global and Enterprise units together to form a single division, BT Business.

Last month, Sky News revealed that Mr Jansen’s £1.1m salary would be frozen until he retired from the company.

The decision was subsequently confirmed in its annual report.

He was paid about £3m last year.

BT has been contacted for comment.

Royal Mail chief executive Simon Thompson resigns | Business News

The Royal Mail chief executive is to step down, parent firm International Distributions Services has announced.

As first reported by Sky News, Simon Thompson had been in talks to leave the company after his credibility was challenged by MPs who recalled him for questioning at the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) committee. He was accused of giving “inconsistencies” in evidence before the committee.

The company said it was in “advanced stages” of appointing a new chief executive and Mr Thompson will remain with the business until 31 October as part of the transition.

The former state-owned company was locked into a bitter dispute with employee members of the Communication Workers Union (CWU) which ended last month when an agreement on pay and employment terms was settled.

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Royal Mail boss admits parcels are prioritised over letters

The settlement of that dispute has been listed as a reason for Mr Thompson to leave now.

“The changes we have made, the infrastructure we have put in place, and the agreements negotiated with our trade unions mean that Royal Mail now has a chance to compete and grow,” he said.

“That is what I have always wanted, and it is now the right time to hand over to a new CEO to deliver the next stage of the company’s reinvention.”

Mr Thompson took on the chief executive role just over two years ago in January 2021. Prior to his appointment he served as a non-executive director of the board since 2017.

He thanks his team for their support in what he acknowledged as a “difficult and important time of change”.

Royal Mail is owned by International Distributions Services plc (IDS) who also own an Amsterdam-based logistics company General Logistics Systems.

The postal delivery company had been under pressure to implement modernising reforms after reporting millions of pounds of losses. In October it announced a process to make 5,000 to 6,000 roles redundant by August.

The financial hit of industrial action was estimated to have been £200m in the first nine months of IDS’s financial year to the end of December.

But the CWU general secretary laid the blame on Mr Thompson.

“Simon Thompson is one of the key individuals responsible for the financial crisis that Royal Mail Group has created over the course of the last year.”

“The chief executive was also one of the key people responsible for the appalling mantra of ‘it’s our business to run’ – which saw the employer openly attack its own workforce on a relentless basis, including developing a culture of imposition and creating service quality and USO [universal service obligation] failures on a scale which threatens the future of the company,” Dave Ward said.

“However, we recognise that the chief executive was only one of the senior leadership team responsible for the unacceptable actions and behaviours of managers across the UK throughout this dispute. Further change in Royal Mail group’s leadership team is vital.”

Royal Mail was also subject to a disruptive cyber attack and reported a breach of customer data in the past year.

Nurses’ strike: Critical care exemptions in place for 28-hour walkout, RCN chief insists, ahead of industrial action | Politics News

National exemptions are in place to provide critical care during strike action by nurses, a union leader has insisted, telling Sky News staff would never leave patients unsafe or create more risk.

Royal College of Nursing (RCN) general secretary Pat Cullen was speaking to Sophy Ridge On Sunday ahead of a 28-hour walkout by members over pay.

The government has warned strike action without mitigations “clearly does put patients at risk”.

The industrial action will run from 8pm on Sunday until 11.59pm on Monday night after voting to reject the latest government offer.

Politics latest: Union leader says nurses are pushed to the brink

The union initially said it would not agree to derogations – broad areas of care where staffing is guaranteed despite industrial action – fuelling concerns about patients being put at risk.

It led Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) among other organisations to declare a “business continuity incident” until it was confident it could staff its services over the strike.

The RCN subsequently offered assurances after the hospital raised “serious concerns”.

But Ms Cullen told Ridge wider, national exemptions were in place.

According to the RCN website, limited safety critical mitigations would include allowing some staff “to preserve life-and-limb” care in emergency departments and intensive care units.

Ms Cullen said: “Our nurses, as I’ve said time and time again, will never leave their patients unsafe or create more risk that’s already in the system at this point in time.”

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Health secretary ‘treating nurses as criminals’

GMB votes to accept NHS pay offer after Unite rejection

Ms Cullen added: “There are national exemptions in place for a range of services, for emergency departments, for intensive care units, for neonatal units, paediatric intensive care units, those really acute services.

“In fact, it was the Royal College of Nursing contacted NHS England to ask for a process to be put in place so that we could make sure that the strike was safe for our patients.”

‘Lives are being put at risk every single day’

Defending the latest walkout she added: “They’re going on strike because patients’ lives are being put at risk every single day, and why? Because we have tens of thousands of vacant nursing posts.”

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NHS executive: ‘Strikes are disruptive’

Health workers across the NHS have gone on strike several times in past months in disputes over pay and conditions.

Unions including Unison and the GMB have voted in favour of a government pay offer to end the strikes, while Unite and the RCN have voted against.

Nurses make up a quarter of NHS staff and are the biggest proportion of the health service workforce.

NHS England warned staffing levels for some areas of the country will be “exceptionally low, lower than on previous strike days”.

Pay offer ‘fair and reasonable’

Warning of the danger of strike action without exemptions for emergency care, cabinet minister Mark Harper told Ridge: “It clearly does put patients at risk, which is why we urge the unions not to go ahead and do the strike.”

Appealing to the RCN, the transport secretary added: “I would urge them to think again and to do what the other trade unions in the health service have done, which is to accept what I think is fair and reasonable pay offer, reflecting the value that we do place on hardworking NHS staff.”

‘I don’t want to see strikes go ahead’

Speaking on the same programme, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer refused to say whether he supported nurses going on strike without exemptions.

He said: “I don’t want to see strikes go ahead.

“The way to avoid strikes is to get in the room with the nurses and resolve these issues.”

A High Court judge ruled on Thursday it would be unlawful for the RCN strike to continue into Tuesday as originally planned, meaning it will now end just before midnight on Monday.

RAF chief admits mistakes over ‘discrimination’ against white men | UK News

The head of the Royal Air Force admitted to mistakes and failings after it was claimed that the former head of recruitment had identified “around 160 cases” of discrimination against white men.

Air Chief Marshal Sir Mike Wigston, appearing before a committee of MPs on Wednesday for the first time since the scandal broke last year, said it had been wrong for “stretching aspirational” targets – that he set to improve diversity in the RAF – to end up as “unattainable” recruitment targets for his recruitment teams.

“That put intolerable stress on them and that was a failing of the organisation – where an aspirational goal becomes an individual’s target,” he said.

Looking incredibly uncomfortable, the RAF chief, for the first time in public, also offered an apology to Group Captain Lizzy Nicholl for feeling as though she had no choice but to resign as head of recruitment.

However, he insisted that there had not been any “active discrimination” against white men.

The RAF chief came under heavy fire from the defence select committee over what happened to Group Captain Nicholl, who quit because she refused to implement what she deemed to be an “unlawful order” to favour women and ethnic minorities when selecting individuals for training courses.

Sky News first reported the resignation last August.

Tobias Ellwood, chairman of the defence select committee, said that he believed legal action was going to be taken against the RAF over the matter, which he called a “blot on the copy book” of the air force.

He said the order that the head of recruitment refused to implement had come down from her chain of command, noting that Air Chief Marshal Wigston sat at the top.

“My question today is: ‘Did the wrong person resign?'” Mr Ellwood asked.

Air Chief Marshal Wigston said that he was limited in what he could say about Group Captain Nicholl’s case because it is the topic of an ongoing inquiry. It revolved around an order that was given to the officer last August and was never implemented because she quit.

Before this happened, though, Mr Ellwood said she had allegedly already discovered a recruitment practice that appeared to favour women and ethnic minority candidates over white men in a bid to improve the RAF’s diversity targets.

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RAF admits ‘mistakes were made’ – report from last year

“She determined that, I understand, about 160 cases of positive discrimination had taken place and she ended up having to resign not wishing to go through with this policy,” Mr Ellwood said.

The RAF chief admitted that mistakes had been made “historically”.

He said it hinged around how certain recruits – based on gender and ethnicity – had been accelerated onto courses ahead of white men, something that was only identified as an “error” at the start of last year.

“Prior to that a limited number of women and ethnic minority candidates who had passed through the recruiting system were allocated additional slots onto basic training,” Air Chief Marshal Wigston said.

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From September 2022: ‘No discrimination’ in RAF recruitment

However, he stressed that no one had done anything intentionally wrong.

“Throughout all of this, I have seen nothing to indicate that people were giving directions that they believed to be unlawful.

“They were working under the assumption that what they were doing was lawful and it was all done under the best of intent to tackle this intractable challenge,” he said, referring to the goal to recruit more women and ethnic minorities.

As for his own track record, the head of the air force said: “I make no apologies for setting a challenging aspirational goal for the Royal Air Force for diversity.

“Those are challenging goals, those are stretching aspirational levels of ambition … One of the mistakes we have identified is that that aspirational goal … when it was translated into the strategy and then translated into our business plan and then trickled down into individual recruiting officers’, recruiting sergeants’ in-year personal objectives and was an unattainable target that put intolerable stress on them, and that was a failing of the organisation where an aspirational goal becomes an individual’s target.”

Met Police chief unveils plan to reform the service and restore trust in wake of David Carrick case | UK News

London’s police chief has unveiled his vision on how to reform the force and win back public trust over the next two years.

The Turnaround Plan coincides with another week of scandal for the Met after the crimes of rapist PC David Carrick were revealed.

The plan has nine priorities including building the “strongest ever neighbourhood policing”, improving public protection and safeguarding, giving victims a “compassionate” service, and showing communities “we care and respect them”.

It comes as the Carrick case prompted separate, urgent action to double-check all police to see if anyone of concern has slipped through the net.

All police in England and Wales must be checked against national databases by the end of March, the National Police Chiefs’ Council said on Friday.

Met Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley said the next two years would be critical and that he was “determined to win back Londoners’ trust”.

He also again condemned the “appalling criminality” of Carrick and the missed chances to stop him.

More on Metropolitan Police

“I know our communities need to see reform in the Met, on issues of standards and culture but also in how we do more to reduce crime,” he said.

“We must and will act now,” he added.

PC David Carrick
The Carrick case has brought fresh shame on the Met

“My promise to you is I, my senior team and the tens of thousands of hard-working and honest officers and staff will reform the Met and do all we can to give Londoners confidence in their police service,” Sir Mark said in a statement on Friday.

However, he admitted that “painful truths” had been revealed that would “not be resolved overnight”.

The plan also includes attending every home burglary, an extra 1,600 Police Community Support Officers, a new anti-corruption and abuse command, and doing more to target men who use violence against women and girls.

Londoners have 12 weeks to give feedback on the plan, which is published on the Met’s website. An updated version will then be published in April.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan said he “wholeheartedly” backed the plan and would start with funding 500 more PCSOs with more investment to be announced in the coming weeks.

Police watchdog chief Michael Lockwood resigns over investigation into ‘historical allegation’ | UK News

The head of the police watchdog has resigned over a “historical allegation”, the home secretary has said.

Suella Braverman revealed she had accepted Michael Lockwood’s resignation as director general of the Independent Office for Police Conduct after he was asked to either quit or be suspended.

Yesterday, Mr Lockwood said he had resigned for “personal and domestic reasons”.

“I took immediate action upon being made aware that Mr Lockwood was the subject of a police investigation into an historical allegation, and instructed my officials to ask him to resign or face immediate suspension from his role,” Ms Braverman said.

“Home Office staff are working at pace with the IOPC’s Unitary Board to put in place temporary arrangements for the organisation’s leadership.”

Mr Lockwood was the first director general appointed to lead the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC), which replaced the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) in 2018.

In a statement yesterday, he said: “It is with great sadness that I have decided to resign as Director General of the IOPC for personal and domestic reasons, and this will be effective from today.

“It has been an enormous privilege to serve as the first Director General of the IOPC and to have led the organisation for the past five years.

“I am proud of the progress we have made and I am grateful to all our staff, the Unitary Board and external stakeholders for all their support.

“The Unitary Board will now work with the Home Office to put in place new leadership arrangements as quickly as possible.”

Met Police chief Sir Mark Rowley says hundreds of officers should be sacked for misconduct and criminal behaviour | UK News

Scotland Yard’s commissioner wants to get rid of hundreds of officers and staff he says are guilty of crimes and unethical conduct.

A report has branded the Metropolitan Police’s internal misconduct system slow and ineffective and said too many repeat offenders were being allowed to keep their jobs.

One officer had faced 11 misconduct hearings over sexual harassment, assault, fraud and other allegations. Some cases were proved, others dismissed, but they were dealt with individually; he wasn’t fired and he’s still serving in the Met.

Sir Mark Rowley said: “We’ve been slacking a bit, removing less than one a week, maybe 40 or 50 a year. Based on this report, which clearly says that we have been far too soft, there must be hundreds in the organisation I need to get rid of.

“Some of them are unethical and don’t deserve to be a cop and don’t deserve to wear the uniform. And some of what they’re doing is in many cases criminal.”

The report found 1,263 staff were involved in two or more disciplinary cases, more than 500 were involved in three to five, and 41 were involved in six or more.

The commissioner said current police regulations meant it was difficult to sack some officers who he was forced to keep on. The Home Office promised to review the rules and hinted it could introduce new laws.

More on Metropolitan Police

The report’s author, Baroness Louise Casey, said the Met’s misconduct system was too slow, with cases taking an average 400 days to resolve. She also described it as racist and misogynist.

“The evidence around racial disparity in the Metropolitan Police’s misconduct system is so great, and so shocking, that even in 2021 81% of black staff and officers are more likely to be in the misconduct system than their white counterparts is truly awful,” she said.

“What I’m saying is the internal misconduct system is an example of what I would call institutional racism.”

Met Police review

She said a rule that allowed probationers to be sacked more easily was not being used fairly, with black officers 126% more likely than white recruits to be subject to what is known as Regulation 13. Asian officers were 123% more likely that white to be fired.

Dame Louise was asked earlier this year, by Sir Mark’s predecessor Dame Cressida Dick, to review the Met’s culture and standards of behaviour in the wake of a series of scandals: the murder, by a serving officer Wayne Couzens, of marketing executive Sarah Everard, the photographing of the bodies of two murdered sisters and the swapping of racist and misogynist text messages by officers at Charing Cross police station.

This interim report looked at the force’s misconduct system because it was considered the most urgent part of her brief.

She said that too many complaints from colleagues about other colleagues were being dismissed without action, leaving staff feeling that “nothing happens”. Accusations of sexual misbehaviour were less likely to be followed up than some others.

Sir Mark Rowley
Sir Mark Rowley

Dame Louise said in an official letter to Sir Mark: “The misconduct system is not delivering in a way that you, I, your officers or the public would expect it to.”

In his reply Sir Mark said: “The evidence is clear: the disproportionate way in which you have showed us black and Asian officers and staff have been treated shows patterns of unacceptable discrimination that clearly amount to systemic bias.

“The fact that allegations of racism or sexual misconduct and misogyny have less chance of being upheld is also completely unacceptable. Furthermore, it is clear that the Met’s systems and processes don’t support the right outcomes.

“You uncover painful experiences from those within our ranks who have suffered discrimination and hate from colleagues, only to have their hurt compounded by a weak response from the organisation. This cannot continue.

“I am sorry to those we have let down: both the public and our honest and dedicated officers. The public deserves a better Met, and so do our good people who strive every day to make a positive difference to Londoners.”

Dame Louise’s full review is expected to be published in the New Year.

Keir Starmer’s chief of staff to leave role as Labour leader moves party to an ‘election footing’ | Politics News

Sir Keir Starmer has sacked his chief of staff as part of a major restructuring of the Labour leader’s office as he moves the party to an “election footing”.

In a statement released on Tuesday, the party said the Labour leader held a call with staff this morning alongside the general secretary and announced plans to capitalise on promising leads over the Conservatives in recent polls.

Sir Keir is said to have told party employees that “this is not time for complacency or caution” and that long-planned changes to structures must be brought forward in light of the Conservative Party’s “implosion”.

“The government’s collapse has given us a huge chance. The instability means they could fall at any time. Because of that we need to get on an election footing straight away,” staff are said to have been told by the Labour leader.

It is believed he urged the party to “seize the opportunity we have and show the British people we are the party that can lead our country forward”.

As part of the changes, Sam White, who was appointed as chief of staff last summer, will leave his position.

The new structure mean policy and communications will move into Party HQ, reporting to the general secretary, the statement added.

Labour’s general secretary David Evans made clear that no jobs are at risk as a result of the restructure.

Former Wasps chief spearheads bid for stricken Premiership Rugby club | Business News

A former boss of crisis-hit Wasps is spearheading a takeover bid for the Premiership Rugby club that could save it from the threat of relegation or extinction.

Sky News has learnt that David Armstrong, who stepped down as Wasps’ chief executive in 2017, is working with Terminum Capital, an investment firm, on a bid to buy the club and its Coventry Arena stadium.

Sources close to the auction of Wasps, which is taking place just days before its holding company faces being plunged into administration, said the bid led by Mr Armstrong and Terminum Capital was worth more than £50m, with a further £12m earmarked for working capital.

Wasps, who play host to Northampton Saints in a Gallagher English Premiership match on Sunday afternoon, have been pushed to the brink of financial ruin by a debt pile which includes an unpaid tax bill owed to HM Revenue & Customs.

The club’s parent company, Wasps Holdings, filed a notice of intention to appoint FRP Advisory, the restructuring firm, as administrator on 21 September.

This was followed by a second such notice last week.

Those filings buy companies 10 days of breathing space from creditors while they seek to find a way through their financial troubles.

Wasps is one of the oldest clubs in English rugby, having been founded in 1867 in Hampstead, London.

It currently sits in 11th place in the 12-team table ahead of Sunday’s match.

‘A powerful combination

People close to the auction of Wasps say a solvent deal to buy the club and its stadium, either together or separately, is unlikely.

The Terminum Capital bid led by Mr Armstrong is said to have requested to Premiership Rugby Limited, the league’s administrator, and the Rugby Football Union, the sport’s governing body, that a deal executed through an administration process should not result in the club’s relegation.

The game’s authorities have the discretion to apply a points deduction rather than demotion in the event of something called a “no-fault administration”, according to one rugby insider.

Wasps’ stadium includes conference and banqueting facilities which are believed to have drawn interest from a number of other bidders which are not interested in buying the rugby club itself.

Oakwell Sports, one of the UK’s leading sports-focused corporate finance firms, and its founder, Andrew Umbers, are said to be advising on Mr Armstrong’s bid.

One rugby expert said the combination of Mr Armstrong’s expertise and that of Oakwell provided a “powerful combination” which could secure Wasps’ financial future.

“We have a plan of bringing about global talent and fostering a greater rugby community,” said a person close to the offer.

‘Discussions at a relatively advanced stage

After stepping down as Wasps CEO, Mr Armstrong remained on its board as a non-executive director until 2021.

A statement last week from Wasps Holdings said: “Since filing the original notice of intention on 21 September, a number of additional potential investors and funders have come forward.

“Discussions are now at a relatively advanced stage, and we remain hopeful of securing a deal that will allow the group, and the entities that sit within it, to move forward.

“We would like to thank all stakeholders for their engagement during this process, and in particular the constructive support and approach provided by the RFU (Rugby Football Union) and PRL (Premiership Rugby).

“This will continue to be vitally important as negotiations with interested parties proceed and we remain in regular dialogue with both organisations.

‘Extremely challenging’ financial circumstances

“While the financial circumstances facing the group are extremely challenging, we remain optimistic about a positive outcome and will keep our players, staff, supporters, partners, bond holders and suppliers updated as this process moves forward.”

Mr Armstrong could not be reached for comment on Sunday.

Wasps’ plight comes as Worcester Warriors, another member of the English top flight, also faces existential questions, having seen its parent company appoint Begbies Traynor as administrators last week.

The financial challenges affecting a number of clubs partly arose during the COVID pandemic but have raised broader questions about the sustainability of the professional game in England.

Be ‘less squeamish’ about drinking reprocessed sewage water, environment chief says | UK News

Britons should be “less squeamish” about drinking reprocessed sewage water, and stop treating the resource as a “free good”, the head of the Environment Agency has said.

It comes as water companies have been accused of dumping sewage into rivers and the sea over the last few weeks, triggering warnings about contaminated water.

There have been growing calls to strip water company bosses of their multimillion-pound bonuses after outrage at how much sewage is being pumped into the sea.

Writing in The Sunday Times, Sir James Bevan, head of the Environment Agency, said that people in the UK should be “less squeamish” when it comes to drinking water that has previously been mixed with sewage, as water companies plan to recycle water directly from flushed toilets.

Sir James says this type of water is “perfectly safe and healthy, but not something many people fancy”.

He added we should “change the way they think about water”, and “treat it as a precious resource, not a free good”.

“We need to remember where it comes from: when we turn on the tap, what comes out started in a river, lake, or aquifer,” he wrote.

“The more we take, the more we drain those sources and put stress on nature and wildlife.

“If we are going to get there, we are all going to have to think differently. Some of these measures will be unpopular, so future governments will need to show political will.”

Sir James’s comments come as a Channel 4 News investigation found more than 870 water pipes in the UK could be dumping sewage without permits.

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Sewage alerts keep swimmers away

More than 200 of those have been confirmed to be in use by water companies, the broadcaster said.

The Environment Agency told the programme: “Water companies have rightly been condemned for allowing far too many sewage spills, and we are holding the industry to account on an unprecedented scale.”

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs added: “We are the first government to take action to tackle sewage overflows. We have been clear that water companies’ reliance on overflows is unacceptable, and they must significantly reduce how much sewage they discharge as a priority.

“This is on top of ambitious action we have already taken, including setting targets to improve water quality which will act as a powerful tool to deliver cleaner water, pushing all water companies to go further and faster to fix overflows.”