Councillor criticises handling of Southern Water public meeting

SOS campaigners including Karen Constantine (on right)

Southern Water has been criticised for the way in which a long-awaited public meeting over pollution incidents is being handled.

Ramsgate’s Labour county councillor Karen Constantine has accused the water firm of making access to tomorrow’s (April 21) meeting “overly difficult” and claims members of the public have to submit any questions they may have in advance.

She also says South Thanet MP Craig Mackinlay has been made chair and believes this will make it harder for people to challenge him.

Southern Water protests last year Photo by Steven Collis

The meeting is being held at Royal Harbour Academy in Marlowe Way from 6.30pm to 8pm on Thursday (April 21).
Southern Water CEO Ian McAuley, Thanet council leader Cllr Ash Ashbee and Cllr Constantine will be among panel members.

The aim is to discuss Southern Water’s improvement plans in light of wastewater releases that shut a large number of the isle’s beaches in June and October last year.

Cllr Constantine, as part of the SOS Ramsgate group, has been asking for a meeting since October following combined sewer releases and failures at Southern Water pumping stations which led to warnings to stay out of the water.

A previous meeting was due to be held in January but cancelled due to Covid issues.

Now Cllr Constantine has criticised the way in which tomorrow’s meeting is being handled. One of her main concerns is that the public gathering will have Mr Mackinlay as chair.

“I was flabbergasted to find Southern Water had given control of the public meeting to Craig Mackinlay and his office,” she said.

“It’s been left up to the Conservatives to manage the meeting and to assess in advance what questions will and won’t be put to the panel.

Karen Constantine

“I believe Southern Water is playing politics with this most serious public issue.

“It has taken me many months of effort to get them to agree to this meeting and I’m not at all happy at how it’s being handled.”

She says access to the meeting has been made overly difficult by requiring residents to register online via Eventbrite.

“More concerning still, questions for the panel must also be submitted in advance,” she added, stating it is “far from impartial”.

“Nor will the public easily be able to scrutinise or challenge our local MP as he is chairing the meeting, rather than being a panellist.”

She says she has also had to sign up to a “surprisingly stringent code of conduct”.

“I gather residents who are signing up for the event are also being told what behaviour will be expected,” she said. “This is extremely heavy handed and overly controlling behaviour.

Warning signs at Thanet beaches Photo Rebecca Douglas

“Southern Water should be totally transparent, even-handed and genuinely committed to public involvement.

“This meeting falls short, and unless Southern Water steps up for genuine robust, impartial public engagement this meeting is the antithesis of openness.”

Southern Water has been asked for a response.

To attend the meeting people must register at



  1. So disappointing that former Cllr and County Councillor Karen Constantine cannot chair the meeting she being an upright and honest member of the public

  2. Craig is dodging questions to chair the meeting. Hahaha! Vintage Craig that is.

    That man really is something…. He will also make it as easy for southern water as possible. He is and has been a stooge for them for a while. Like he is with all these businesses. Certainly not an MP for the people that’s for sure.

  3. It’s not the easiest place to get to for non drivers either. It should be chaired by an independent person.

  4. Unfortunately, Cllr Constantine is, as usual, being selective with the facts of the situation, as although there is a request for questions to be submitted in advance, it is quite clear, and in writing, that attendees will be able to ask questions from the floor. #truthwillout

  5. It’s great that Cllr Constantine is so supportive on this issue but…
    SOSRamsgate has many members who have done leg-work to secure this public meeting, engaging with the CEO of Southern Water and Craig Mackinlay back in October 2021, pressing them for action with letters, meeting with SW managers to refine arrangements, challenging them on how they reneged on agreements, etc.
    Cllr Constantine does herself a diservice by taking all the credit and, in doing so, offend those who did the work. Playing politics seems to be the name of the game.

    • I’m sorry but it’s comments here that seem to be making it about red and blue. Simple facts stand. It shouldn’t have taken this long…. Craig has done nothing to add to this process and yet is now chairing it to shield himself and control the narrative and he will shield southern water. People are being warned and controlled before the meeting. All of this is unacceptable to somehow hammer the person highlighting some of these issues and leaving southern water and Craig unchecked is how this country is in a mess.

      People seem more worried about talking about Labour than they are holding Tories and the government and serving MPs to account for the messes we are in!!

      Maybe the opposition has failed.

      But more importantly the government has failed and they are the law makers (and law breakers) people need to get a grip and get perspective of who is actually in charge and why we have all these issues.

    • You’re correct, Ramsgate SOS have put in lots of hard leg work. The press release stated “Craig Mackinlay should know better and should credit the work undertaken by myself and others in getting to this point.” Thereby making it clear that others have also driven this agenda. That hasn’t made it into print. I did call the first public meeting in December and have pushed very hard – along with others – since then. I think it’s wrong that this meeting is being chaired by the local MP who will be able to avoid answering questions, it’s also quite wrong for him to say he has called the meeting.

  6. Someone close to S.Water told an acquaintance recently that it was cheaper for them to let untreated water overflow and pay the fines, than finance the infrastructure upgrades. Something to look at, as that appears to be what’s happening.

    • That appears to be the case Democrat! It will be interesting to see if South Thanet Chocolate Tea Pot MP will allow that question to be put to SWA! Or why can’t SWA be nationlised, to stop our money going to share holders, instead of upgrading, and modernising water infrastructure?

    • This was made public in the court proceedings when SW had their £90million fine. It was also set out in the Parliamentary scrutiny of SW which their current CEO got a grilling.
      MP Mackinlay is on record as saying “the most powerful thing we can do to stop this filth on our beaches is protest”. He then added that he “will not put up with this (pollution) on our beaches”. While he voted against his Party to support the anti-pollution amendment (last year) he then voted with his Party to legislate so SW (and others) can pollute freely for decades to come.
      SOSRamsgate along with local Cllrs are campaigning to challenge him and SW.
      Join us to make a difference!

      • Unfortunately Craig often misleads the public. His voting history is terrible and most normal central morale people would be shocked that he has constantly said things to Thanet voters and then voted whatever way he is told when in Westminster. The only time he rebels is nonsense fracking and other illogical beliefs he has.

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