Anger over Thames Water and Westminster Council's flash floods response
- Credit: Norradean Amorro
Thames Water and Westminster Council faced fury on Friday over the authorities’ response to flash flooding.
More than 200 people joined a one-hour public meeting as residents and opposition councillors expressed anger over the alleged lack of preparation for the heavy downpours which ruined some people’s homes.
Further ire was directed at Thames Water for not providing direct compensation to residents, which the council’s opposition leader called “at best distasteful”.
Thames Water apologised for its “unacceptable” communication with residents on July 12, announcing it would be running an independent review into the flash floods. Westminster Council confirmed that it too was holding a statutory investigation.
Maida Vale councillor Geoff Barraclough (Lab) said it was unclear which authority was responsible for which areas of flood management, and that people were “nervous” the same thing could happen again, hypothetically, “next week”.
Opposition leader Cllr Adam Hug (Lab, Westbourne) said there needed to be a “blow-by-blow” account of the emergency services’ response, while George Mayhew, corporate affairs director for Thames Water, said he “extended” the company’s “deepest sympathies” to those impacted.
“It clearly has devastated so many people’s lives, and we are so, so sorry for what's happened to you all. It's terrible,” he said.
“I would also like to apologise for those of you who tried to get through to Thames Water on the day of the storm and weren't able to.
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“I’m not going to make any excuses for that all. It was unacceptable.”
He added: “In terms of the [water] network, I know this will be quite a hard pill to swallow, but it did not fail.
“The issue was that the drainage system, which is not under Thames Water’s control, was inundated by the intensity of the rainfall.”
Westminster Council explained its current role in flood management as devising risk assessments and developing a maintenance system to keep gullies clear, so that excess water can be drained away as quickly as possible.
Cllr Melvyn Caplan (Tory, Little Venice), Westminster’s cabinet member for city management, acknowledged there are still lots of “unanswered questions” from residents.
He added: “This has affected hundreds of people’s lives and its extremely upsetting, distressing and everything else that goes with it, and obviously my sympathy goes to everybody who's been affected in that way.
“We've been spending a lot of time with residents over the last couple of weeks and of course will continue to do so.”
A preliminary report by the council into the flooding is expected in three weeks.
No one has yet been appointed to the Thames Water review, the result of which Mr Mayhew said would take “several months”.