Motions on stopping pollution of local rivers and Universal Credit

July 2021

Council notes that:

  1. There is great concern at reports that Thames Water discharged raw sewage into the River Chess and River Colne over 500 times in 2020.
  2. A reply to an Environmental Information Regulation (EIR) request shows sewage discharges from the Chesham Sewage Treatment Works for 2021 through to 24th May 2021 occurred for 1791 hours out of a total possible 4032 hours, or 44.4% of the year.
  3. These timings show that the discharges have become routine, rather than an emergency response to exceptional conditions.
  4. In response to a petition on such discharges the Government has stated that ‘Tackling the harm caused by sewage is a top priority for Government’.
  5. The Government has stated that ‘Climate change has led to increased rainfall and water infrastructure has not kept pace with development growth’.
  6. In addition to having a negative impact on local wildlife and forcing a local watercress farm to cease trading, this also hugely affects the quality of life and the enjoyment of water-based activities for residents along the course of the river and at times causes contaminated water to be on roads and pavements, and into local properties.

Council believes that:

  1. The establishment of a Storm Overflows Taskforce and a date of September 2022 from the Government to publish a plan to reduce sewage discharges from storm outflows is too little, too late to tackle the issue.
  2. The rules on sewage discharges must be tightened and enforcement improved, in conjunction with the Environment Agency.
  3. Housing developers should meet the costs of the required supply and disposal of water from new homes.
  4. The Government must make capital funding urgently available to address these issues
  5. Council therefore instructs the Chief Executive to write to the relevant Government Ministers, requesting an acceleration in the capital programme to lower risks of untreated sewage discharges into our rivers, and an assurance that local housing developers will be expected to fund water infrastructure to meet the needs of new housing.

Universal Credit

Council deplores the decision of the Government to remove the ‘temporary’ uplift in Universal Credit on 1st October, and to cease a similar uplift in Working Tax Credit.

Council agrees with the former Tory leader and architect of Universal Credit, Sir Iain Duncan Smith, and five of his successors (Stephen Crabb, Damian Green, David Gauke, Esther McVey and Amber Rudd) that a failure to keep the uplift in place would 'damage living standards, health and opportunities [for those that] need our support most as we emerge from the pandemic […] and the extra £20 [... ] has been essential in allowing people to live with dignity’.

Council therefore resolves to ask the Chief Executive to write to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions to request that the uplift be incorporated permanently into Universal Credit, Working Tax Credit and related legacy benefits.