Patrick Ward

Water companies said last week that they were sorry for pumping so much raw sewage into our waterways. And nothing says “I’m sorry” like asking the rest of us to pay for them to stop doing it.

Water UK, which represents all the water companies in the country, has said it’ll spend £10bn by 2030 to cut the number of sewage outflows. And to do that, it said that consumers will have to start paying more.

But those same water companies are also predicted to pay out a stonking £14.7bn to shareholders over the same period.

Just this month, beaches at Mundesley, Sea Palling and East Runton saw their Environment Agency quality ratings drop. That’s bad news for our health as well as local tourism.

And why? Because people half the world away want a good return on their investment.

They aren’t working for it - they’re putting their money somewhere and waiting for it to grow. We’re the ones working for it, amid a cost of living crisis, as we see more of our hard-earned cash go down the plug hole.

Take our very own Anglian Water, who like to remind us with every bill we receive that they “love every drop”. I assume they thought it was bad PR to have the words “of your cash” at the end of that slogan.

Around a third of the company is owned by the Canadian Pension Plan Investment Board. And a fifth is owned by IFM Global Infrastructure Fund, which is based in Australia.

Last year, Anglian Water chief executive Peter Simpson pocketed a £337,651 bonus as part of his £1.3m annual salary.

That was despite the company having one of the worse pollution records in the country.
And just to add insult to injury, Anglian Water Group, the firm’s parent company, is based in Jersey – a tax haven.

And despite a poll last year suggesting that even 68pc of Conservative voters want water to be renationalised, none of the main political parties back taking it into public ownership.

But that’s the only answer - 100pc of those profits should go back into providing the service we pay for.

End fot Sats?

Ten and 11-year-olds were left in tears last week having been subjected to a particularly cruel Sats test that was roundly condemned by school leaders.

As part of the 12-page reading test, some of which was adapted from the highbrow New York Times newspaper, pupils were expected to know details about US states and what a “sheep rustler” is.

Simon Kidwell, a headteacher and vice-president of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: “We had a couple of children who got upset because they did not finish.

And from parent feedback, children went home and did not think they had done very well. It’s knocked their confidence.”

So what are Sats for? They’re supposed to be a way of measuring how well schools are performing, but the huge amounts of pressure put on youngsters is having a big impact on their wellbeing.

Three years ago, the Children’s Society found that only 64% of children in the UK felt they had high life satisfaction, the lowest score among the 24 countries surveyed. Fear of failure was a key factor for this poor rating - and taking tests to see if you’re a “high achiever” can hardly help.

Sats don’t even seem to help maintain high standards of education. A 2017 parliamentary committee raised concerns that schools were gearing children’s education towards passing tests, not to the sort of general education youngsters need to succeed in life.

And with the well-documented stresses caused by Ofsted inspections, schools are being turned into places of misery for students and staff alike.

As a dad, I want my son to enjoy learning. He’ll no doubt do well in some areas and less well in others, like the rest of us.

I don’t want my child, or any other, to feel like a failure because they can’t comprehend an abstract newspaper article before even leaving primary school. That’s a surefire way to dent a love of learning, perhaps forever.

It’s time to scrap the Sats and foster a true passion for education in our youngsters.

Be wary of peanuts

I eat far too many peanuts. Chilli peanuts, dry roasted peanuts and even Marmite peanuts, if they’re in the cupboard (and they always are) they’re not there long.

They’re also good for you, packed full of fibre, protein, vitamins and minerals.
But there’s a catch.

I recently saw a video of a respected scientist pointing out that while peanuts in themselves are good for you, the ones I’ve been eating aren’t.

It’s the coatings, you see. They’re what’s classed as “ultra-processed”, meaning they put me at greater risk of things like cardiovascular disease, weight gain and an assortment of other nasty problems.

I looked down at my cheerful bag of jalapeno and cheese-coated peanuts, realising that the fun was coming to an end.

But as I was contemplating my life after my favourite snack, I heard the voice of home secretary Suella Braverman on the radio. She was railing against the “experts and elites” who think they know so much and keep thwarting her plans.

Good old Suella. Fools to the left of her, no one to the right, she may be stuck in the middle of a pile of scandals right now, but she’s not giving an inch.

What if rather than the objective truth from that elite nut expert, I just embrace my own version of the truth? I’m going to stuff myself with barbecue sauce-flavoured nuts and there’s nothing the tofu-eating wokerati can do about it.

My tummy hurts. And thus I win.