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Waverley Council Leader Takes Issue with MP’s Letter to Thames Water

Published on: 14 Nov, 2023
Updated on: 15 Nov, 2023

By Martin Giles

The leader of Waverley Borough Council (WBC) has hit back at Jeremy Hunt MP over assertions made in a letter he sent to Thames Water in the wake of last week’s prolonged water supply problems, which affected thousands of homes in the Guildford and Godalming area.

In the letter Mr Hunt, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, as well as the MP for Surrey South West, criticised the closure of the water station at Crown Court Car Park, Godalming, on Saturday night (November 4), “despite Waverley BC and Thames Water being aware many thousands of local people had no water supply. Was it really necessary to close this overnight and until 9am the following morning?”


Extracts from Jeremy Hunt’s letter to Alastair Cochrane and Cathryn Ross, both CEOs at Thames Water.

He said he would: “…follow up with Waverley Borough Council as many feel they should have recognised these serious logistical issues and been more responsive to residents need this last week. I am also aware there have also been issues with Waverley’s dissemination of information to all, not helpful in their time of need.”

Cllr Paul Follows

But the Lib Dem Waverley Council leader, Cllr Paul Follows, who has been selected to stand against Jeremy Hunt at the next general election, said the assertions left him “frankly astounded”.

In a written response Cllr Follows says: “In most respects I share your outrage at the situation and will join you in calling for action.

“However, I must take issue with a number of things you have said and a number of serious omissions.”

He then lists a series of counterpoints including:

” 1. As you know full well, Waverley BC is NOT the lead in this sort of emergency, Surrey CC is.

” 2. You made no mention of Surrey or the serious concern raised as to why Surrey CC did not declare this a major incident earlier. Is this because they are Conservative council and Waverley is not?

“3. In terms of getting water out to vulnerable people and the priority list in particular. That responsibility sits with Thames Water (again as you know). Waverley BC and Godalming TC – staff and its councillors addressed the vast gaps (both for individuals and care homes) that became evident quickly.

“4. As to Crown Court car park, Waverley BC do not lock it and issued no restrictions. Indeed, and as I know you also know, TW refused to go on longer out of safety concerns for their staff.”

And the council leader uses stronger language when it comes to WBC communications.

He continued: “I agree with you completely in regard to the severe lack of information coming out of TW. But, I find it quite troubling and desperately disappointing that you take this opportunity to attack WBC – whose staff and councillors were some of the only people providing anyone with any information at all.

“I find it incredible that you chose to attack those who tried to help during this crisis, and have chosen to exempt those with your own political affiliation from responsibility.

“You yourself have a responsibility, as an MP, to properly regulate the utilities sector and provide a robust legislative framework to ensure issues like this are rare and are managed better.

“Residents expect you to be present in parliament and voting on matters like this and especially in regard to sewage.

“Respectfully , I ask you to please do your job.”

Lessons learned and compensation

The focus will now be switching to obtaining answers about the cause of the problem from Thames Water. It seems at least three water treatment plants had problems during the week, not all caused by power outages.

Here, Jeremy Hunt outlines some of the problems the water outage caused for residents and businesses.

Jeremy Hunt MP

There are also concerns about compensation payments and Jeremy Hunt wrote: “Thames Water has already confirmed customers will be automatically credited as a result of the disruption. I confirm on behalf of my residents that circumvention or avoidance of the stated customer guarantee route will not be acceptable to those affected.”

Public meetings

In the letter, the Surrey South West MP thanks Thames Water for agreeing to attend a public meeting “in the near future”. Angela Richardson, Guildford’s MP, has also been told that Thames Water is keen to attend a meeting with Guildford residents from mid-December “when they have completed their lessons learned review”.

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Responses to Waverley Council Leader Takes Issue with MP’s Letter to Thames Water

  1. Sara Tokunaga Reply

    November 14, 2023 at 2:51 pm

    I was impressed by Cllr Follows and the information and assistance WBC provided, compared to the silence from our GBC leader. I hope we will be informed (through The Dragon) when the public meeting for Guildford will take place.

    Editor’s response: We hope to bring details of the meeting, expected to be held in mid-December, as soon as we are informed by Guildford’s MP Angela Richardson or Thames Water.

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