Ofwat orders Thames Water to produce turnaround plan over sewage record | Thames Water
Thames Water has been ordered to update its service commitment plan by the regulator Ofwat after a minister said the company’s performance in regards to sewage dumping and serving customers was “completely unacceptable”.
Robbie Moore, the floods minister, said Britain’s biggest water supplier was “under no illusions over the scale of the challenge” as MPs heard that Thames had allowed waterways to become polluted and homes to be flooded with sewage.
At a Westminster Hall debate on the performance of the company in Oxfordshire, Moore said: “Ofwat have directed Thames Water to produce a service commitment plan.
“This will require Thames Water to publicly commit to a plan for how they will start to turn their performance around. Please be assured that regulators and the government will be scrutinising these plans in detail to make sure every possible is being done to get the company back on track in terms of service delivery, environmental performance and ensuring that the customers get what they quite rightly deserve in terms of good supply.”
Debt-laden Thames has been repeatedly criticised for its record on sewage dumping and leakage, while fears have been raised about its financial position after auditors said it could run out of money by April.
Thames last published a commitment plan in December, which was updated in January. “Our underlying performance is improving in some areas, but deteriorating asset health, climatic events and cost pressures, means our current performance is falling short of expectations,” the plan said.
Layla Moran, the Liberal Democrat MP for Oxford West and Abingdon, said: “Our local environment is under threat thanks, in part, to the shoddy performance of Thames Water. The dumping of sewage in our rivers, failing to unblock drains, failing to fill reservoirs and they don’t deliver value for money.”
Moran recounted anecdotes from her constituents, including an angler who witnessed faeces “float past the end of his fishing rod” and a dog owner who claimed his greyhound, named Roy, died when it fell ill shortly after entering raw sewage.
There is also a row over plans to build a 150bn-litre reservoir, spanning almost two miles across, to the south-west of Abingdon. Moran said her constituents had “no faith” that Thames can deliver the project.
She said the company had been “horrifically mismanaged” and called for a public inquiry into the reservoir plans. She said executive bonuses should be blocked in the water industry “until the sewage dumping stops”.
Moore said independent analysis had shown that stopping storm overflows completely would cost between £120bn and £600bn, adding £271 to £817 a year to bills, by 2049. The industry has committed to spend £60bn by 2050, after years of under investment.
Moore said the government had also given the Environment Agency an extra £2.2m a year to carry out enforcement action after concerns about understaffing.
The outcome of a joint investigation by the Environment Agency and Ofwat into practices at sewage treatment works is expected to be announced within the next two months, industry sources said.
Moore said: “It is critical that all water companies, including Thames Water clean up their act, behave transparently and take urgent action to improve their performance where they fall short. If they do not achieve this, this government shall not hesitate in holding them to account.”
Ofwat said it had received Thames Water’s latest plan last week and had asked the company to provide quarterly updates on its progress.