During a recent debate in Parliament, it was revealed that South East Water (SEW) were the worst performer across the entire sector when it came to supply interruptions.
Maidstone and the Weald MP, Helen Grant, spoke in the Westminster Hall debate on 17th January to put on the Parliamentary record the appalling experience of her constituents in the Weald of Kent losing their water supply in the ten days leading up to Christmas.
Helen Grant said, “In addition to people’s homes and Christmas plans being affected, businesses like Iden Manor Farm were unable to get drinking water to their livestock and The Kings Head, Staplehurst’s only pub, had to close at their busiest time of the year.” Mrs Grant pressed the minister on compensation for those who have suffered financial losses.
Multiple critical incidents occurred across the country, largely due to the sustained cold weather period. SEW argued that it was due to exceptional circumstances with a twenty-degree temperature swing over 24 hours when it eventually thawed. Both Helen Grant and Greg Clark were clear, however, that this explanation was simply not good enough, arguing that SEW failed to live up to their sole purpose of providing water for their customers.
Rebecca Pow MP, attending the debate as Minister for Environmental Quality and Resilience, confirmed that “in 2021/22 39,000 SEW customers were without water for between 1 hour and 126 hours.” Average interruption per household sat at over one hour despite their performance commitment to achieve an average time of just 6 minutes.
The Minister confirmed the Government’s support for regulators taking any action necessary to hold utility companies to account and ensure they meet their obligations to consumers.
SEW recorded £83million in profits over the last year. Both MPs called for significant personal and community compensation from SEW, to address the serious harms caused by this failure of duty.
Helen will be convening a multi-agency meeting with the CEO of SEW, David Hinton, on 7th February, and said, “There are serious questions that need to be answered and lessons learned. We need to know what SEW’s plan of action is moving forward to avoid a repetition. The issue of compensation for those who have suffered financial loss must also be addressed.”