Surrey Lib Dems secure council support to take Thames Water to task on emergency response

14 Dec 2023
Zoe Franklin, Paul Follows and Julia McShane seated at a table, in discussion.

Surrey Lib Dems used a motion at this week's full council meeting to secure the County Council’s support to take Thames Water to task over its response to the recent interruptions in water supply for thousands of residents in the Guildford and Waverley borough areas.  

The motion was proposed by Paul Follows (Godalming South, Milford & Witley) in which he set out the difficulties suffered by around 13,000 households during a period of disruption that lasted for some communities, up to two weeks. The outage not only affected private households, but also GPs, care homes, schools, and other public services, leading to the County Council calling a major incident on 05 November.  

In seconding the motion Liz Townsend (Cranleigh & Ewhurst) explained that residents in her division had also been impacted by spillages of raw sewage in their gardens and nearby rivers. She called on Thames Water to properly invest in its ageing infrastructure to prevent future incidents. 

One of the agreed actions in the motion that was passed unanimously, was that Surrey County Council should write to Thames Water and challenge the company on aspects of its operation and incident response, as well as demanding it sets out how it will improve its performance in the future, should a similar event happen again. 

Paul, who is also the Leader of Waverley Borough Council, was well placed to witness the impact that the interruption in service had on residents and businesses.  

Paul said:  

I was particularly concerned about the arrangements in place for vulnerable residents to obtain alternative supplies of drinking water. They hadn’t really thought through the logistics properly and didn’t make provision for the many people who would be unable to travel to queue and pick up bottled water. Above all I was really disappointed that Thames Water failed to communicate effectively with residents, businesses, and public bodies throughout the whole episode. In future they need to up their game so that the initial problems are not compounded. They were extremely poor on this front. 

I am very glad that this motion received cross party support and hope that it will help us secure a commitment from Thames Water to do better next time.”