Sunday 7 October 2007

Thames Water To Explain Themselves At Hammersmith and Fulham Public Meeting

I have become all too familiar with Thames Water over the years. Hammersmith and Fulham's residents have faced a variety of water related problems and until the May 2006 local elections, I led the all-party negotiating group against Thames Water on behalf of the 33 London Boroughs.

Thames Water has at times tried to address residents' concerns but it is my experience that this only happens after intense pressure has been applied. Mostly, residents and I have felt let down by their efforts.

Our pan-London negotiations forced Thames Water to increase investment in their maintenance programme, we won a £10million reimbursement for local authorities, forced them to pay half the bill for fitting water pumps in large buildings and got them agree to give the other 50% as an interest free loan. I think we would have got more in commitments and compensation but the 2006 election results interceded, power changed hands and the negotiations have all but been brought to a stop.

This month I am due to meet Thames Water on two (possibly three) occasions. They are coming to a public meetings in Hammersmith and Fulham to explain why many people’s homes have been recently flooded with sewage and foul water. They will also hopefully be able to tell us:

  • why some people have been flooded out four times in three years and what they’re doing about it.
  • about the current state of their sewer maintenance programme
  • why low water pressure problems are still being experienced by homes and businesses in Hammersmith and Fulham
  • how they manage emergencies such as burst pipes
  • why they’ve dumped sewage into the River Thames
  • about their plans for the recently announced ‘super sewer’
  • what they’re doing about regular river front flooding
  • why their contractors have dug up our streets and then seemingly failed to carry out any works for weeks at a time
  • how they plan to end the terrible sewage smells in certain parts of our borough.

During my many meetings with Thames Water, there were often times when I wasn’t sure whether they were being incompetent or disingenuous. I haven't changed my conclusion given that the Chief Executive’s office recently told me that they’re still working on the questions I asked them last July about maintenance to local sewers. OFWAT, the regulator, has apparently become similarly frustrated. They fined Thames Water £12.5million, attributing the bulk of the penalty to Thames Water's failure to provide "robust information". You can read the BBC report here.

The first of the meetings will take place at H&F Council’s Cleaner and Greener Scrutiny Committee on 17th October. The open meeting will begin at 7.00pm in Hammersmith Town Hall. Members of the public are able to attend and - at the Chair’s discretion - ask questions as well. I’ll post a link to the agenda and papers when they’re published in a few days time.

If your area has had any of the above problems then please email me here. I will let Thames Water know and seek action on your behalf.

UPDATE: Thames Water have submitted a very brief report to the Cleaner and Greener Scrutiny Committee which is included in the agenda papers. You can view it by by clicking here. It's on pages 14 to 16.

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