As drought hits, what are UK water company chief executives paid? | Executive pay and bonuses

Britain’s biggest water companies have come under the spotlight as the nation swelters during what could become the worst drought in 500 years, with hosepipe bans introduced across much of England in an attempt to fend off shortages.

Anger is growing over the huge sums handed to their shareholders and executives, given the companies’ record on tackling leaks and pollution and their failure to build more reservoirs. Politicians and campaigners are calling for water company bosses to have their bonuses banned until they tackle these issues.

The bosses of England’s privatised water companies have been criticised for banking £58m in pay and benefits over the last five years. Since privatisation, shareholders have been paid £72bn in dividends. The cash came from big debts, with companies borrowing £56bn, and big bills, with prices rising 40%. So how much exactly are the different companies are their bosses being paid?

Thames Water

Area: Greater London, parts of Kent, Essex and Gloucestershire
Chief executive: Sarah Bentley
Pay: £2m
Tenure: September 2020-present

Wearing hard hat and hi-vis jacket
Sarah Bentley joined Thames Water with a £3.1m ‘golden hello’. Photograph: Thames Water

Bentley landed £2m in pay and bonuses last year. She held senior roles at the telecoms giant BT, the consultancy Accenture and Severn Trent Waterbefore joining Thames Water with a £3.1m “golden hello”, including two £727,000 one-off payments. Last year, the firm was fined £4m for discharging raw sewage in two Oxford streams.

Anglian Water

Area: East of England including Norfolk and Cambridgeshire
Chief executive: Peter Simpson
Pay: £1.3m
Tenure: 2013-present

Wearing a hi-vis jacket
Peter Simpson received a £337,651 bonus despite the company’s poor record on pollution. Photograph: Anglian Water

Simpson has led the group for nearly a decade, and was its managing director before that. He is a past president of the Institute of Water and faced criticism last month when the Guardian revealed he had landed a £337,651 bonus despite the company notching up one of the worst pollution records in the industry.

Severn Trent

Area: Stretches from the Bristol Channel to the Humber, and from mid-Wales to the east Midlands
Chief executive: Liv Garfield
Pay: £3.9m
Tenure: 2014-present

Closeup shot of her
Liv Garfield, of Severn Trent, which was fined £1.5m last year for dumping sewage in Worcestershire. Photograph: Bloomberg/Getty

Garfield was previously chief executive of BT’s infrastructure arm, Openreach. The Everton fan has said she is not a fan of hot spells, and that “the best weather for water companies is 17 degrees and drizzling”. The firm was fined £1.5m for dumping sewage in Worcestershire last year.

Pennon

Area: South-west England
Chief executive: Susan Davy
Pay: £1.6m
Tenure: 2020-present

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Susan Davy, of South West Water, has faced criticism over pollution levels. Photograph: Severn Trent

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

Wessex Water

Area: Parts of south-west England including Dorset, Somerset and Wiltshire
Chief executive: Colin Skellet
Pay: £975,000 last year
Tenure: 1988-present

The two men walking
Colin Skellet with David Cameron in 2011. Photograph: PA /Alamy

Skellett is a scientist and engineer who in 1989 took the company through privatisation. Wessex Water has issued a warning about “non-essential” water use and he has a 40ft swimming pool at his home in a village outside Bath, thought to be worth more than £3m. Wessex Water paid out £975,000 over raw sewage spills in Dorset in 2018.

United Utilities

Area: North-west England
Chief executive: Steve Mogford
Pay: £3.2m
Tenure: 2011-present

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Steve Mogford of United Utilities.

Mogford spent his early career in the aerospace and defence industry, including roles at British Aerospace, BAE Systems and SELEX Galileo, where he was chief executive. He is set to retire in 2023, when he will be succeeded by the customer service and people director, Louise Beardmore, meaning all but one of the top jobs at the UK’s FTSE-listed water companies will be held by women.

Northumbrian Water

Area: North-east England, Essex, Suffolk
Chief executive: Heidi Mottram
Pay: £648,000
Tenure: 2010-present

portrait of her seated
Heidi Mottram apologised in January after a worker nearly lost a leg when he was struck by a 1.5 tonne pipe. Photograph: Medicimage Education/Alamy

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

Southern Water

Area: Hampshire, West Sussex, Isle of Wight, parts of Kent
Chief executive: Lawrence Gosden
Pay: Undisclosed
Tenure: 1 July-present

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Lawrence Gosden of Southern Water.

Gosden has recently taken over from Ian McAulay, who is retiring at the end of the year and who took home more than £1m last year. Gosden started his career at Southern as a graduate and spent 12 years at Thames Water. Last year Southern was fined a record £90m for deliberately pouring sewage into the sea.

Yorkshire Water

Area: Yorkshire, north Lincolnshire, Derbyshire
Chief executive: Nicola Shaw
Pay: Undisclosed
Tenure: 9 May-present

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

Shaw took over from Liz Barber earlier this year. The former National Grid UK executive director, who was also boss of High Speed 1, is likely to receive similar pay to her predecessor, who received £1.4m.

Scottish Water

Area: Scotland
Chief executive: Douglas Millican
Pay: £558,000
Tenure: 2013-present

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Douglas Millican of Scottish Water. Photograph: Scottish Water

Millican was finance and regulation director since Scottish Water, a publicly owned entity, from when it was formed in 2002 until taking the reins nine years ago. Executives at the firm were criticised for receiving a £10,000 “car benefit” during the pandemic. Last year, the company was fined £6,700 after admitting an incident of water pollution in which at least 500 fish died.

Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water

Area: Wales
Chief executive: Peter Perry
Pay: £675,000
Tenure: 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 firm has been told to take action after an increase in pollution incidents. Perry is a water industry lifer, having held roles with United Utilities in Scotland and Ireland.

Northern Ireland Water

Area: Northern Ireland
Chief executive: Sara Venning
Pay: £210,000-£215,000
Tenure: 2014-present

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

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

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