Liberal Democrat leader warns Conservatives will lose seats if they don't clean up rivers

The Conservatives will lose "dozens of seats" at the next general election if they fail to stop sewage being pumped into rivers, according to Sir Ed Davey.

Councillor Alex Wagner launches petition for residents to sign over state of rivers in Shropshire
Councillor Alex Wagner launches petition for residents to sign over state of rivers in Shropshire

The Liberal Democrat leader pressed for greater action on "one of the biggest environmental crimes in our country" as he spoke at his party's spring conference in York.

Water companies are only permitted to release sewage during periods of heavy rain so the system does not back up and pump sewage into people's homes.

But campaigners last year warned firms released raw sewage into UK rivers and seas almost 150 times during dry weather in a 12-month period.

The issue has become a key battleground for the Lib Dems in Parliament as they bid for swifter progress to prevent sewage dumping.

Lib Dem Councillor in Shrewsbury, Alex Wagner, met with members of Shrewsbury Canoe Club last week as a sewage outlet into the Rea Brook was in full flow. He says the public health impact of dumping sewage into the Rea Brook and the River Severn is brought up extensively during conversations with residents in the town.

He wants a sewage tax on water company profits to fund local and regional efforts to improve water quality and has a clean up rivers petition.

“The government needs to make this money fund the clean-up of the River Severn."

In his speech Sir Ed stressed the need for "empowering people" to be part of decisions for their community, adding in a message to Tory MPs: "People want good schools, good hospitals, affordable housing and safe communities.

"People want a clean, healthy natural environment. They want an end to the Conservatives letting water companies get away with pumping filthy sewage straight into our rivers.

"That is one of the biggest environmental crimes in our country today and it's a crime that will cost the Conservatives dozens of seats if they don't act."

Government plans released last month outlined how water companies in England will be required to explain why sewage spillages into rivers and seas are happening and what is being done to fix them.

Ministers are also consulting on making it easier and quicker to slap polluting companies with penalties, so they are made to pay immediately rather than wait for lengthy criminal prosecutions to conclude.

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