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Water firms failed customers during ‘Beast from the East’

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People shovelling snowImage copyright Getty Images

Some of the UK’s greatest water corporations didn’t correctly help customers during this winter’s Beast from the East snow chaos, inflicting “significant hardship”, Ofwat has stated.

The regulator stated greater than 200,000 customers have been left with out water for greater than 4 hours and tens of hundreds have been minimize off for days.

It accused firms of unhealthy planning, communication and a lack of help.

Severn Trent, South East, Southern and Thames Water carried out worst, it discovered.

The regulator additionally stated it was involved the £7m of compensation paid out to customers could not have been sufficient and that it could evaluation current pointers.

Ofwat chief govt Rachel Fletcher stated: “The freeze and speedy thaw earlier this 12 months was forecast and was not unprecedented.

“But too many companies were caught off guard and let people down, causing real hardship as a result. Our report shows there is no excuse for this level of failure.”

The icy spell in late February and early March led to a large enhance in the variety of burst water mains and in customers’ personal water pipes as frozen pipes thawed.

Image copyright Thames Water
Image caption Water firms noticed a spike in burst mains and pipes in the wake of the freeze and thaw

But Ofwat acknowledged that whereas suppliers’ frontline workers labored tirelessly to repair the points, greater up some firms lacked correct emergency response plans.

Citing survey knowledge from the Consumer Council for Water, Ofwat recognized frequent failings, together with:

  • Almost three-quarters of customers whose water provide was disrupted didn’t obtain different provides of water
  • There was restricted or inaccurate knowledge on the place issues have been occurring and whether or not they had been resolved
  • Only 60% of affected customers obtained direct communication from their provider
  • Stakeholders corresponding to councils, faculties and emergency providers obtained “little or no” proactive communication “before, during or after the event”.

“In some cases, customers were left to fend for themselves, or depend upon the support of local bodies or volunteers,” it added.

Ofwat stated all water corporations in England and Wales wanted to enhance, however it has requested Severn Trent, South East, Southern and Thames Water to publish motion plans by 28 September setting out how they might do higher subsequent time.

“We will take action if they don’t rise to this challenge,” Ofwat stated of the 4.

It additionally stated present compensation preparations “were not reflective” of the influence on customers of being with out water for a extended interval. As such, it’s going to seek the advice of on more durable guidelines obliging firms to supply customers with “resilient supplies”.

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Media captionMum in South London: “Five kids and no water”

In a assertion issued on behalf of the 4 worst performers, trade physique Water UK stated fewer than three% of all customers in England and Wales have been affected by provide disruptions during the excessive climate.

However, it acknowledged important numbers had skilled “disruption and hardship”.

A spokesman for Severn Trent stated: “We’d like to apologise again to our customers who were affected during the extreme weather in March. Customers rightly expect water whenever they need it, and we’ve been working hard since March to make improvements to our incident response processes.”

Steve Robertson, boss of Thames Water, stated: “I am pleased Ofwat has recognised that frontline staff worked tirelessly in extreme circumstances to restore customer supplies. As the report notes, we rapidly increased water production by 15% to minimise disruption.”

He stated the scale of leaks and bursts was “the worst in living memory” however added: “We’re really sorry we could not protect those customers impacted.”

Labour has been placing strain on the authorities to deal with what it describes as “scandalous” earnings made by personal water corporations.

In February, shadow chancellor John McDonnell stated suppliers had paid out £13.5bn in dividends to shareholders since 2010, whereas claiming tax breaks and pushing up costs for hundreds of thousands of shoppers.

The party has pledged to renationalise water, vitality and rail corporations if it wins the subsequent election.

However, the authorities stated the plan would value taxpayers billions of kilos and result in worse providers.

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