Public backs our call for independent public inquiry

SAS press release

An overwhelming majority (82%) of the British public support the next government setting up an independent public inquiry into the discharge of raw sewage into rivers and seas, according to new polling data from YouGov and Surfers Against Sewage (SAS).

The data has also revealed the level of public distrust in politicians to deal with the issue of sewage pollution, with well over half (59%) saying they wouldn’t trust most or any of our politicians to tackle the problem, and almost one third (31%) saying they wouldn’t trust any politicians to address the issue. Surfers Against Sewage is therefore calling on the next cohort of MPs to use this opportunity to restore public trust by taking action to tackle sewage pollution and deliver on the clear demand for a public inquiry.

The polling was commissioned by SAS to mark the conclusion of its Election Road Trip, during which members of the campaign group travelled the length of the UK in a bespoke double-decker tour bus, galvanising communities across the country to demand that election candidates make commitments to end sewage pollution.

Matt Keeble/PA Media Assignments

Giles Bristow, CEO of Surfers Against Sewage, said:

Our new polling data reveals just how deep the scars of the sewage scandal run, with a staggering lack of public trust in politicians to tackle the issue of sewage pollution. This should be a clear sign to each and every party that their current commitments to improve the health of our rivers, lakes and seas are not bold enough. 

In the last two weeks we’ve travelled the length of the UK on our End Sewage Pollution Road Trip, speaking to activists who are fighting to clean up their local bathing spots. From Portobello Beach in Edinburgh to the River Dart in Devon, anger at the state of our wild waters is at fever pitch. The UK water industry needs a complete overhaul in order to address the fundamental flaws that have pushed our blue ecosystems to the brink and that are posing a serious hazard to human health, every day. 

On top of delivering their manifesto commitments, we are calling on the next government to immediately launch an independent public inquiry into the sewage scandal to determine what has gone so drastically wrong, and to ensure steps are taken to reshape the industry away from its catastrophic profiteering practices. Real change is needed to nurse our wild waters back to full health. With 82% of the public in favour of an independent inquiry, it’s clear this demand is the will of the people.

Mistrust in politicians to deal with the issue of sewage pollution was highest amongst those who voted Conservative in the 2019 general election, with two thirds (63%) saying they wouldn’t trust most or any politicians to deal with the problem, compared with 60% of Liberal Democrat voters and 50% of Labour voters. 

Meanwhile, appetite for an independent public inquiry was highest among Labour voters, with 92% calling for the new government to set up an inquiry into the discharge of raw sewage into UK rivers and seas, followed by 88% of Liberal Democrat voters and 82% of Conservative voters.

The polling was undertaken by YouGov, with a politically weighted sample of 2,080 UK adults.