Page 35 - Phonebox Magazine June 2024
P. 35

     We need a plan to get sewage
 out of our river
Chris Curtis, Labour’s Parliamentary Candidate for Milton Keynes North
One of the many things that makes our local area great is our beautiful canals, rivers, and lakes.
Growing up locally, my friends and I would often head down to the Olney rec during summer holidays to take a dip at the bathing steps. The Olney raft race is one of the many great events in our local calendar. However, in recent years our river has been ruined by unacceptable levels of sewage dumping. Water companies have hiked up their prices, given massive bonuses to their bosses, and shared large profits among their shareholders. But they haven’t found the cash to invest in the infrastructure required to keep our rivers clean, and the government has failed to hold them to account.
The number of hours of sewage released into our local waterways more than quadrupled last year, according to new figures from the Environment Agency. This totals over 2000 hours of raw sewage being dumped into our river across over 237 spills.
The levels of dangerous germs in the river, including e-coli, are shocking.
Yet our current MP wants to make this situation even worse, by removing rules for housebuilders so they can pollute our waterways when putting up new developments. These changes to so called “nutrient neutrality” rules would put housing developers’ profit margins before the interests of our local environment.
If elected, I would push forward with our plan to clean up our local rivers.
Firstly, we need to be clear on the scale of the problem. This means changing from the current system where water companies can self-monitor their dumping, to a system where they are forced to monitor every water outlet. This would also make it impossible for them to cover up the scale of the problem. Secondly, we need to provide a strong incentive for water companies to invest in cleaning up their act, rather than lining their pockets. We will, therefore, give the water regulator new powers to block the payment of bonuses to bosses until we see improvements. Finally, we need tougher punishments for those who break the rules. We will introduce
severe automatic fines for water companies that pollute, and criminal charges for bosses who continue to oversee law-breaking.
I know that local Olney Mayor and councillor Debbie Whitworth is working hard to ensure that we have a good record of the problem, and she is looking at whether there is more that can be done locally to improve the situation. But it is only with a local MP with a plan, and a Labour government that is willing to hold water companies to account, that we will start to see the situation improve.
Only then can we once again safely enjoy our fantastic local rivers, lakes and canals, as I remember doing so fondly in my childhood.
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    Buckinghamshire’s quirkiest outdoor theatre
Educating Rita
by Willy Russell
25th - 27th June, 7.30pm TICKETS £17.50 EACH
Performance ‘in the round’. Only 50 tickets per performance available. This heartwarming comedy drama stars the fantastic Amy Milburn of ‘The Wet Mariners’
and our own Dave Pibworth.
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The Arches Theatre, Church Farm, Clifton Reynes, Olney MK46 5DT
  June 2024 | Phonebox Magazine 35

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