Flooding in London

MQT on 2017-06-22
Session date: 
June 22, 2017
Question By: 
Leonie Cooper
Labour Group
Asked Of: 
The Mayor


Following the Cuttill report, do you have any concerns about the risks of burst water mains in London?


Answer for Flooding in London

Answer for Flooding in London

Answered By: 
The Mayor

Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Thank you for your question.  I am concerned about Thames Water’s maintenance of its assets and the intolerable impact these burst water main incidents have had on the lives of Londoners and the capital’s businesses.  I am aware the Environment Committee held Thames Water to task on this matter just last week, as did my Deputy Mayor for Environment on 16 June. 


For years London has put up with an unacceptable number of leaks from water mains and I expect Thames Water to act on the recommendations from the Cuttill report as soon as possible.  Just last week Thames Water was fined the maximum amount by the Water Services Regulation Authority (Ofwat), £8.55 million, for significantly missing their leakage reduction target.  This shows that Thames Water have a lot of work to do to ensure they are meeting Londoners’ needs. 


The report highlighted that the rate of water mains replacement by Thames Water is not keeping pace with the deterioration of the network.  As our city grows the water network must also keep pace and Thames Water need to invest in securing a reliable network for now and the future.  Thames Water has informed me they will invest an additional £97 million over the next three years in the mains network, but while this is to come from shareholders rather than customers the amount is pitiful given the cost of destruction to Londoners.  Early detection and intervention by Thames Water is vital to reduce the risk of further bursts.  I want Thames Water to increase the investment to accelerate their monitoring system so the risk is reduced. 


They need to stop relying, frankly, on old listening devices and move to more advanced leak detection systems.  They also must improve their compensation offer.  I would expect Thames Water to be reaching out to those affected rather than waiting for those affected to enquire as is often currently the case.  I have also been in touch with the Chair of Ofwat and my Deputy Mayor for Environment will be meeting him soon. 


Leonie Cooper AM:  Well, thank you very much, Mr Mayor, for that response and for being so vocal, both yourself and your Deputy Mayor, in support for the investigation into Thames Water and their failings following several floods in London towards the end of last year.  Obviously this comes in a very difficult period for London and yourself.  Just before I move on to ask you a supplementary, can I just extend some personal comments that have come to me from a lot of people around Tooting and Wandsworth?  Obviously in the period of Ramadan they are very aware that you and your team have been working extremely hard and they hope you are looking after yourself.  That is essentially what a lot of people have been saying.  Some personal messages of support for you. 


I asked some of the boroughs who had been affected by the flooding incidents, Lambeth, Lewisham, Hackney and Islington, to come into City Hall.  We heard from a number of scrutiny inquiry teams who have been looking into these matters in detail.  We heard directly from them about some of the communication failures that you have just referred to and some of the somewhat ineffective emergency responses and the lack of aftercare for the residents.  Now, one of the points that Thames Water have then made to us is that they themselves are not a blue light service and obviously they need to liaise with the Fire Brigade, who do not have the end‑to‑end responsibility because there is that interface.  They also do not have that statutory responsibility. 


Would you agree that in order to deal effectively with this type of large‑scale flooding that we have seen in various parts of London, the Fire Service should hold the statutory duty of first responder?  If you do agree with that, what resources would be needed in terms of equipment and training and would this be something that you would be joining with Assembly Member Twycross to press Government on? 


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  I looked to the Chair of the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority (LFPEA) for assistance but there are a lot of things I wanted to raise with LFEPA and with Dany Cotton [QFSM], the Commissioner.  Can I just say this?  Let us not allow Thames Water to get away with just the issue of first response because how you plan to do the works matters as well.  There are planned works that go wrong that cause all sorts of destruction.  We are trying to work with them to improve their planning.  It is not simply the response to the crisis caused by the flooding but also how they deal with customers and businesses. 


I am happy to look into the issues you raise about first response and there may be a need for legislation.  I will need to check that with the Chair of LFEPA because there is also an issue of resources as well.  Can I take this offline and speak to you about that once I have discussed this with the Chair of LFEPA and the Commissioner as well? 


Leonie Cooper AM:  Thank you very much, Mr Mayor.