Damian Hinds and other MPs have met with Thames Water chief executive Martin Baggs to request urgent clarification of plans for the new Thames Tideway Tunnel and its effect on local residents.
Thames Water is continuing with plans to build a sewage storage and transfer tunnel in London, to prevent large volumes of sewage from discharging into the Thames. The current network of sewers in London was constructed 150 years ago to serve a population of 4 million people, and it is no longer big enough to meet the demands of the city now that the population has doubled.
The cost, however, will be borne by Thames Water wastewater customers, including residents in Bordon and Alton. Bills are likely to increase from 2014 onwards, and it is said that in around 2019 the increase could peak at as much as £70-80 more per household per year than 2011 charges. This information was relayed to affected customers in leaflets delivered in October last year.
After the meeting, Damian Hinds said:
“The environmental case for a new sewerage system for the Thames is clear. To be fair to Thames Water, the system does need upgrading and their current sewerage chargers are lower than others! But it is an enormous sum of money and there are at least three key issues which still require answers: fairness to our area, a fair share from the company, and a fair deal for customers in the hardest circumstances.
“Many people in East Hampshire cannot understand why they have to foot the bill for this project in London. I am aware that it is a basic principle of the way the system works that projects are funded by a water company’s customers throughout their service area. However, it is important that East Hampshire knows we are getting a fair deal in this respect, and I have asked Thames Water’s chief executive to demonstrate how customers here benefit from investments.
“I and the other MPs involved also want reassurance that Thames Water is providing an adequate chunk of the costs from its retained profits, rather than putting a disproportionate burden on customers. The financing vehicle for the project also requires scrutiny to ensure value for customers; the history of the private finance initiative demonstrates some of the issues.
“Finally, we need to make sure that those in difficult circumstances do not find themselves in water poverty because of this. £80 is a large sum for anyone, but even more so for families in financial trouble or some pensioners for example. I have been in touch with the chief executive of Ofwat to share this concern, and was told that while the Government recently published guidance on social tariffs which allow water companies to provide reduced bills for its most vulnerable customers, it is up to the water company itself to propose such support. I will be expecting Thames Water to come forward with proposals in the near future.”