Members of a group refusing to pay their water bills have slammed Southern Water after it was revealed the company wants to up charges by £279 a year.

Those in the Hastings Boycotts Southern Water (HBSW) group have withheld their waste water bills to protest against the provider dumping sewage in the sea – which happened 16,000 times last year.

But things have escalated further this morning after it was revealed the company was to pile on more charges to customer bills so it can deal with the ongoing sewage issue.

Katy Colley, from HBSW, said: “Southern Water has had years to put their house in order and make the necessary investments from the money they collect from our bills.

“Instead, they paid out millions in dividends, executive salaries and bonuses.

“Now they want us to pay all over again for the works they should have already done. It’s a disgrace and we are certainly not going to pick up the bill for their greed.”

Under the plans, which account for inflation, each household would have to pay on average 73 per cent more by 2030 than compared with today.

It means the average bill would be £759 a year.

Throughout the five years of the plan from when the hike would come in to force, customers would have to find £959 more than if bills stayed at the same price as today.

Cat Hobbs is the director of We Own It, a group campaigning for public ownership of the water companies.

She said that, according to a poll of more than 4,000 people commissioned by her group, 69 per cent support public ownership, adding: “This absolute scandal makes it crystal clear that our privatised water system is broken.

“No wonder people are outraged to the point of boycott. Instead of forcing customers to pay even more, it’s time to take Southern back into public ownership.

“Shareholders the other side of the world don’t care that beaches in southern England are covered in sewage.

“We should copy Scotland – investment by publicly-owned Scottish Water is 35% higher and rivers and seas are cleaner as a result.

“Water is the stuff of life, it should be run for people not profit.”

A “least cost plan” is also being considered, which would save each household £10 by 2030 but some improvement works on reducing sewage spills, repeat flooding, climate adaptation and sewage infiltration would not be completed.

READ MORE: Southern Water nominated for awards despite sewage spills

In the leaflets, given to the PA new agency by a member of a focus group who wished to remain anonymous, Southern Water said its regulatory commitment is to reduce sewage spills by 25 per cent by 2030 and 75 per cent by 2050.

It said for this it needs to charge £30 per household, which totals £750 million.

The least cost option would save a further £3-a-year rise by 2030 – giving Southern Water £60 million – but the company would not invest in accelerating work to reduce sewage discharges from the top 30 spilling storm overflows.

Southern Water said the options are not final but part of a wider programme of research before it submits its proposals to industry regulator Ofwat in October and that the figures do not include discounts of least 45 per cent to around 125,000 households in financial hardship.

In 2021, it was fined a record £90 million for what a judge called a “shocking and wholesale disregard for the environment” when it dumped billions of litres of raw sewage into the sea.

Katy Taylor, chief customer officer of Southern Water, said: “We regularly listen to the views of customers from across our region when we plan future investment in our network, and we discuss the possible impacts on bills.

“We know our communities want to see us investing to improve our environmental outcomes and to do it wisely, but we also recognise the concerns about rising payments in the face of a cost-of-living crisis.

“This is why it is important we work together with our communities, in finding the right balance.”