Fringe Box



Letter: Words Are Cheap – Solutions for Our Water Supply Problems More Difficult

Published on: 6 Apr, 2024
Updated on: 6 Apr, 2024

Zoe Franklin

From: Leo Jewel

In response to: Lib Dem Says Conservatives Must Put Thames Water into Special Administration Now

Word even big words are cheap but actions on the problems facing ailing water companies are very expensive, whether for Thames Water, the government or anyone else for that matter.

Thames Water was privatised out of what was originally the Metropolitan Water Board, itself formed from the local borough water boards.

Much of the system is creaking for a variety of reasons:

(1) because the existing systems are old – TW has invested in improvements but wholesale replacement would be prohibitive for public or private entities;

(2) because there are far more people drawing on its water supplies and using its foul sewers – it has invested in pipe renewals and supply robustness over many years but not enough to fix all the problems;

(3) because we are more prone to flooding nowadays and that is a function of all of our lifestyles over many years; and

(4) because we have concreted over much more land which means there is more combined sewage to deal with – TW’s £5 billion investment in the Thames Tideway Tunnel will make a difference to the tidal Thames in London when it comes online in a few months’ time, but this has been at least 25 years in the making; a function of our planning and public infrastructure delivery regulations.

I am no great fan of Thames Water but for wannabe MP Zoe Franklin to think the Lib Dem magic wand will cure all is a bit like its misleading graphics on its pre-waste-paper delivered to our doors announcing that anyone else “can’t win here”.

Ms Franklin should come up with a properly funded solution.

See also: Public Meeting with Thames Water – April 12

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Responses to Letter: Words Are Cheap – Solutions for Our Water Supply Problems More Difficult

  1. Jack Bayliss Reply

    April 9, 2024 at 6:10 pm

    Well said. The management of Thames Water may have had its faults but I am sure the situation would have been worse if it had remained in public ownership.

    The probability of there having been any investment at all to update the vast, creaking, Victorian infrastructure is minimal. Politicians get votes from promising money for the NHS, social welfare, etc, not on sewers and drains. And perhaps they are right: the ability to swim risk free (apart from drowning) in the Thames or the Wey is surely less important that the ability to get a GP appointment.

    A bit more honesty and realism from politicians might make people less cynical about democracy.

    • S Callanan Reply

      April 10, 2024 at 11:46 am

      Mr Baylis is “sure the situation would have been worse if it (what was privatised into Thames Water) had remained in public ownership”. His reasoning is that politicians get votes from promising money for the NHS, so money would not have been available to spend on the water infrastructure. That’s not an argument for privatisation, though.

      Aren’t some matters too important to be taken out of the public sector? Swimming risk free in the Thames or the Wey are just two examples of the public health benefits of a clean and efficient water and sewage system, without which many more people would be seeking appointments with their GP.

      I think many now accept that the doctrinaire privatisations of the 1980s were just plain wrong.

      And where has all the social housing gone? It seems to me that in Guildford properties once owned by the borough council are now owned and let by private landlords. The public/private ownership debate has all the logic of the “two legs bad, four legs good” of Orwell’s Animal Farm.

      I don’t have the “properly funded solution” to the problems in the water industry, but if Mr Jewel or Mr Bayliss does perhaps they’d let us know.

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