Government draws up contingency plans for Thames Water

Ministers ‘consider nationalising Thames Water’: Government draws up contingency plans as doubts grow that UK’s biggest water firm with 15 million customers can service its £14bn debts

  • Concerns are growing for the future of debt-laden water firm Thames Water
  • Ministers have met with regulator Ofwat to draw up contingency plans

The government is arranging contingency plans for the collapse of Britain’s biggest water firm Thames Water – amid growing concerns over whether it can service its £14billion worth of debts. 

Ministers are understood to have met with Ofwat, the industry regulator, to explore the prospect of putting Thames Water into a Special Administration Scheme (SAR), resulting in temporary public ownership.

The government last used this insolvency process after the downfall of energy supplier Bulb in 2021, Sky News reports.

But critics of the process are angered at taxpayers footing the bill worth billions – far smaller than when the government acquired Bulb.

Whitehall talks with Ofwat have also involved representatives from DEFRA and the Treasury and so far are  believed to be at a preliminary stage.

The premise of the talks is reportedly for contingency plans, which may not need to be put into effect.

Earlier today, Thames Water’s CEO Sarah Bentley stepped down with immediate effect weeks after being forced to give up her bonus over the company’s environmental performance.

Thames Water provides for 15m customers across London and southeastern England.

But it has faced heavy criticism in recent years, with headlines about leaks, sewage contamination, and shareholder dividends.

Earlier today, Thames Water’s CEO stepped down with immediate effect weeks after being forced to give up her bonus over the company’s environmental performance.


The company said that Sarah Bentley would leave the board on Tuesday, but will continue to support her interim replacement until a new full-time boss can be found.

Ms Bentley, who was appointed in 2020, said in May that she would give up her bonus after the company’s environmental and customer performance suffered.

But even after giving up the bonus, the chief executive managed to double her pay, raking in £1.5 million.

At the time Gary Carter, a national officer at the GMB union, said that Ms Bentley’s plan to give up the bonus was ‘nothing more than a flimsy PR stunt’.

On Tuesday chairman Ian Marchant said: ‘I want to thank Sarah for everything she has done since joining the company in 2020, building a first class executive team and leading the first phase of the turnaround of the company.

‘On behalf of everyone at Thames, the board wishes her every success for the future.’

Ms Bentley said: ‘It has been an honour to take on such a significant challenge, and a privilege to serve Thames Water’s dedicated and inspirational colleagues.

‘The foundations of the turnaround that we have laid position the company for future success to improve service for customers and environmental performance.

‘I wish everyone involved in the turnaround the very best.’

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