Following the summer's terrible floods, three executives from Thames Water recently came to Hammersmith Town Hall. They sat facing a crowd of around sixty people, all of whom had suffered sewage and foul water pumped into their homes. Thames Water’s team were there to take questions from a panel of councillors. Their body language was tense, some said “twitchy”. It grew increasingly uptight as each question probed deeper into the basis of the problems.
Some people in the audience had suffered the same flooding four times in three years. The meeting didn’t go well for the three execs. The Thames Water team had indeed mastered empathy. The voice tones were soft and understanding but the language was blunt. The residents that had attended were initially told that “there is little, if anything, that can be done to prevent the continued flooding and that people may well be flooded again”.
But the answers didn’t stack up. Thames Water admitted they didn’t know the state of the borough’s sewers – many of which could be silted and not working to capacity. That they didn’t have information about the condition of local None Return Valves and that they hadn’t got any robust information about which homes had been flooded. It didn’t look impressive and it certainly didn’t look like the company was doing everything it could to help. The meeting became quite lively as the crowd failed to be convinced.
The next night I met the same three Thames Water executives again. The residents of Boscombe Road had invited them to one of their flooded-out homes in mid-restoration. They too wanted answers. The group of neighbours had undertaken an impressive level of research. Local resident Chris Moran led the questions and the meeting concluded with some concessions from Thames Water that would benefit the area.
Having led the cross-party negotiating team for all London boroughs for four years, I recognised Thames Water’s familiar approach. I think we can get them to do more. The Thames Water team have agreed to meet the residents of Hammersmith Broadway ward next. My fellow ward councillors and I are in the middle of arranging it. Please email me here if you want to attend. We will let you know when we have a date.