Thames Water’s chief executive is set to nearly double her salary with a £1.5 million pay package – despite announcing she would forgo any bonus for this financial year.

The water company confirmed last month that Sarah Bentley and chief executive Alastair Cochran would shun their bonuses, as well as any payments due under long-term incentive plans, for the 2022-23 financial year amid intense criticism over pollution.

The previous year, she had received a £496,000 bonus.

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But her latest pay packet has been swelled by one-off payments as part of a ‘golden hello’ incentive package used to entice her from rival Severn Trent, where she spent nearly six years before joining Thames Water in 2020.

Gary Carter, a national officer at the GMB union, described the situation as a ‘flimsy PR stunt’.

He said: “The UK water industry is in a complete mess, with creaking infrastructure, a disgruntled workforce and effluent allowed to flow freely into our beautiful waterways. To see those responsible for this carnage pocket a king’s ransom is particularly galling.

"Ms Bentley’s announcement she won’t take a bonus, while at the same time trousering a huge total pay package shows, it was nothing more than a flimsy PR stunt."

Thames Water reports show Ms Bentley received a ‘final buyout payment’ of £548,780 last July to compensate for share awards she forfeited at Severn Trent, and £178,000 relating to Thames Water’s performance in the first two years of the job.

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This means that during the last financial year, even without the waived bonus, she will have received about £1.5m, including her £750,000 salary and a £90,000 cash pension payment.

She also receives a car, travel allowance and healthcare cover.

A Thames Water spokesperson said: “Sarah has made the personal decision to decline any incentive payments she may be awarded for the 2022-23 performance year. This includes the 2022-23 annual management bonus and the 2020-2023 long-term incentive plan. She will still receive the final buyout payment for loss of inflight awards from Severn Trent as this is unrelated to Thames Water performance.”

The company has recently faced criticism about sewage discharge into the river Thames in Wallingford, with environmental groups sticking yellow notices by the river bank warning people not to swim.

Witney Gazette: Extinction Rebellion activists with concerned residents at the riverside in Wallingford

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In January, hundreds of people gathered around Oxfordshire to demand an end to the release of raw sewage into the county’s rivers and streams.

Clean water campaigners were joined by swimmers and councillors at Oxford’s Port Meadow in a protest which was part of a reported 80 Dirty Water demonstrations around the region.

There were also protests in Banbury, Faringdon, Wantage and Witney.