Fringe Box



Lib Dem Says Conservatives Must Put Thames Water into Special Administration Now

Published on: 26 Mar, 2024
Updated on: 29 Mar, 2024

Lib Dem Zöe Franklin speaking at her party’s spring conference

The Liberal Democrats want Thames Water, heavily criticised for recent water supply problems in Guildford, to be reformed as a Public Benefit Company, with an environmentalist on the company board. The company would then work in the public interest as well as for shareholders, say Lib Dems.

The prospective Lib Dem candidate for this year’s general election, Zöe Franklin has said: “Ministers must act now before it’s too late.

Update, see Angela Richrdson’s response below.

“Speaking at the Liberal Democrat spring conference, I led calls for the Government, regulators and Thames Water itself to address the failures causing lasting damage to our environment, making people ill, and leaving communities without a reliable infrastructure that is fit for purpose. Thames Water must be fully accountable to its customers. It should not be allowed to hide from the customers it serves.

“So far, the Conservatives have watched from the sidelines as asset-strippers run Thames Water into the ground. Thames Water bosses have been profiteering for years. This must stop now.

“The cost of failure must not fall on taxpayers. The Government must act now.”

See also: Apologetic Thames Water Hears of Customers at Boiling Point

According to Ms Franklin, Thames Water is on the brink of bankruptcy. And if the Government fails to use new powers to intervene urgently, the multi-billion pound cost of bailing out a failed company would fall on taxpayers.

She said: “After years of underinvestment in infrastructure, their shameful legacy is sewage pollution in our waterways and people who can’t be confident their water supply is reliable. All while the company has pushed to be allowed to increase our bills by 40%, to pay lower fines for pollution, while still paying out shareholder dividends.”

Updated legislation allows the High Court to appoint a special administrator to take over a failing water firm. Its debts would remain with the holding company, meaning taxpayers would not be liable.

See: Thames Water Representatives Face Angry Residents Who Suffered Loss of Water Supply

MPs for Surrey South West and Guildford Jeremy Hunt and Angela Richardson have arranged a second public meeting with Thames Water to be held at 5pm on April 12 at the Wilfred Noyce building in Godalming.

March 27: Angela Richardson commented: Thames Water’s new executive team are looking to increase the company’s financial resilience and I am assured that there are regular communications taking place between Thames Water, Ofwat, the water regulator, and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

In the meantime, the government is listening to residents’ concerns. It is right that Ofwat is empowered to scrutinise plans to ensure customers are not paying more than they should on their bills.

Thames Water has ringfenced £93.1 million investment to support the resilience of Guildford’s water supply infrastructure. The government has announced a 470 per cent increase in unannounced inspections of water companies, and the Environment Act gives Ofwat new powers to crack down on water companies making excessive pay-outs to shareholders when the company is not meeting required performance standards.

Whilst the Liberal Democrats play politics, I am holding Thames Water accountable and have been in touch with hundreds of residents to support them with their cases.

To enable residents to put their concerns directly to Thames Water, I have worked with Jeremy Hunt MP to arrange a second public meeting on 12th April, which I look forward to co-charing.

Guildford Labour were invited to comment.

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