Taps turned on for water chief’s pay despite company blamed for vomiting bug outbreak

The boss of South West Water’s parent company has raked in £860,000 despite a parasite contamination scandal.

Susan Davy’s pay soared 58 per cent in the last financial year, the utility firm revealed yesterday, amid anger over the outbreak of a vomiting bug that was traced back to one of its reservoirs.

And as the crisis rumbles on, Pennon – the stock market-listed owner of South West Water and Bristol Water – revealed that pollution incidents climbed 80 per cent last year.

Critics branded Davy’s inflated take home pay as ‘farcical’ as some households in Brixham, Devon are still without clean tap water.

Pennon’s chairman Gill Rider also announced she will step down next month just weeks after the dirty water scandal broke out.

Making a splash: Susan Davy, boss of South West Water parent company Pennon, enjoyed a 58% pay rise despite a parasite contamination scandal

Hundreds of customers became ill and some were hospitalised after drinking water that was contaminated with a parasite.

Some residents still have to boil their tap water around a month after first cases were reported.

Totnes Conservative MP Anthony Mangnall has called for victims to be compensated.

But the wider water sector is also facing fierce backlash over sewage being dumped in Britain’s rivers and lakes.

Debt-laden Thames Water, the UK’s biggest water supplier, is scrambling to raise cash or risks going bust next year.

Davy, 55, was urged to resign last month after shareholders were handed £127million in dividends – while households who were supplied contaminated water will get up to £265 each.

Amid public and political outrage over the company’s performance, the chief executive has waived her bonus for the second year in a row, costing her £237,000 for the year ended March 31.

But she made £298,000 from a long-term incentive plan which boosted her total pay to £860,000 compared to £543,000 a year earlier. 

The rest of the package was made up of a £492,000 base salary, benefits of £21,000 and pension payments of £49,000. 

Crisis: A tap water alert was issued in Brixham after hundreds fell sick from a vomiting bug

Crisis: A tap water alert was issued in Brixham after hundreds fell sick from a vomiting bug

It was revealed yesterday that pollution incidents at South West Water soared by 80 per cent to 194 in 2023.

Andrew Speke at think-tank the High Pay Centre said: ‘It seems farcical that the chief executive of a company which has failed in its duties to consumers and the environment in the way Pennon Group has in the past year could be getting a pay rise. 

It shows the real disconnect between how executives are rewarded and the actual performance of that individual and their company.’

Rider, who has chaired the Pennon board for around four years, will step down at the firm’s annual general meeting in July and will be replaced by David Sproul, chairman of digital challenger bank Starling Bank. He was previously global deputy chief executive at auditing giant Deloitte.

A spokesman for Pennon said: ‘We understand the strength of feeling from our customers and the public around the issues facing the water sector. 

For the second year running, our chief executive, alongside other members of our executive leadership team, have therefore made the personal decision to decline annual bonus for the previous financial year.’

Pennon made a loss before tax of £9.1million, compared to £8.5million a year earlier. Net debt increased to £3.8billion during the period, up from £3billion.

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