Joe Lycett gives a classic response to record sewage spills

Joe Lycett gives a classic response to record sewage spills

Related video: Joe Lycett unveils sewage company stunt

Joe Lycett

In news which, quite literally, stinks, raw sewage spills into England’s rivers and seas reached a record high last year, with a 54 per cent increase in the number of spills compared to 2022 – and beloved comedian Joe Lycett isn’t too happy about it.

Back in November, the Birmingham funnyman announced he was ‘starting’ a new podcast called Turdcast about “celebrities talking s***”, only for it to be “cancelled” a while later when a launch event at Liverpool’s Royal Albert Dock ended with a “spillage”.

The whole thing eventually turned out to be Lycett’s latest stunt (previous pranks from ‘Mummy’ include temporarily changing his name to Hugo Boss, tricking Nadine Dorries and ‘shredding’ £10,000 over David Beckham’s ambassadorship of the Qatar World Cup) to draw attention to the UK sewage crisis.

In a video statement released on social media at the time, Lycett said: “I’m not spilling s*** in public everywhere. Who do you think I am, GB News?

“No, it was fake sewage, from a fake toilet, to promote a fake podcast.

“Last year, according to one analysis, £1.4 billion in dividends was paid out to shareholders of the water companies – that’s a lot of money that could be used to improve the sewage network and reduce spills.

“So I want the water companies to stop paying dividends, and invest that money in improving and solving this problem.”

He called on fans to go to a website and email their water company, demanding they sign up to “Joe’s Poo Promise”.

Now, as the Environment Agency reports there were 3.6 million hours of spills in 2023, as opposed to 1.8 million in the 12 months prior, Lycett took to Twitter/X to take aim at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and regulator Ofwat.

“@Ofwat @DefraGovUK hi, wat u guys up 2?? txt bk hehe xox,” he wrote.

In a more serious, follow-up response, the comedian added: “There was a section in the [Joe Lycett vs Sewage] doc we didn’t manage to fit in about the effect of all this on the coastal economy.

“There’s a tendency to think this is just a bit gross and only affects swimmers, but it actually has a huge knock-on effect for jobs and businesses too. Lots of them are closing early or entirely due to decreased footfall.

“It’s not just some s*** in a river, it’s people’s livelihoods.

“Plenty of nicely paid work available if you happen to be water company CEO, though!”

In a statement accompanying the data release, the Environment Agency’s director of water Helen Wakeham said: “Whilst it is disappointing that water companies have reported an increase in sewage spills in 2023, it is sadly not surprising. We are pleased to see record investment from the water sector, but we know it will take time for this to be reflected in spill data – it is a complex issue that won’t be solved overnight.

“No other country has the level of monitoring we do, with 100 per cent of storm overflows in England now fitted with a monitor.

“We are better placed than ever before to hold water companies accountable – thanks to intelligence from our new whistleblower portal, our plans to expand our specialised workforce, new enforcement powers, increased water company inspections and new tools to inform our enforcement work.”

The organisation’s press release also claims the increase in spills is “partly because 2023 was named by the Met Office as the sixth wettest year” since records began.

Water minister Robbie Moore added: “I have been clear that sewage pollution in our waters is unacceptable, which is why in just the last few months we announced a consultation to ban water bosses’ bonuses when criminal breaches have occurred, quadrupled company inspections next year, fast-tracked £180 million investment to cut spills, launched a whistleblowing portal for water company workers to report breaches, and will soon set out our plans to ban wet wipes containing plastic.

“We demanded that 100 per cent of overflows were monitored by the end of last year as part of our drive to improve transparency. Today’s data shows water companies must go further and faster to tackle storm overflows and clean up our precious waterways.

“We will be ensuring the Environment Agency closely scrutinise these findings and take enforcement action where necessary.”

The Liberal Democrats have called for a national environmental emergency to be declared over the figures, while Labour’s shadow environment secretary Steve Reed accused the government of letting a “torrent of raw sewage pour into our rivers and seas”.

Water UK – the industry body for water companies – said its firms would invest a record £14.4 billion in return for customers’ money, to ensure supply security and “significantly reduce” the amount of sewage in rivers and seas.

And if you think all of this is pretty foul, you may be interested in reading about a “dirty protest” which allows you to send actual sewage to the UK Government urging them to take action on this issue.

We’re not joking.

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