A hard hitting report on Thames Water and water main bursts by Lewisham Council’s Overview & Scrutiny Committee has supported the Fire Brigade Union’s campaign to make the Fire Brigade the statutory emergency service for flooding.
The report was commissioned after major water main bursts occurred across London including Lewisham on 26th November 2016 where over 40 people were evacuated from their homes and a further 40 people were led to safety from a coach stuck in the roadway in Lee High Road.
Council’s across London – Lewisham, Islingtion, Lambeth and Hackney – together with the Greater London Authority’s Environment Committee have agreed joint recommendations:
1. That Thames Water improve their emergency response arrangements including instituting a dedicated emergency response line for the reporting of leaks and investigating the possibility, with the Metropolitan Police Service, of receiving a ‘blue light’ service from the Police should a major incident be declared.
2. That Thames Water improve and join up their monitoring system for detecting the likelihood of bursts on major trunk mains.
3. That Thames Water, when submitting their case to OFWAT for their future 5 year investment plans, prioritise the phased improvement of ageing Victorian pipe replacement on major trunk mains. This should be completed within a specified period to be determined and published by Thames Water, but 15 years is proposed, given the problems that major bursts on these roads cause to businesses and residents.
4. That Thames Water develop and publish performance and attendance standards, both in relation to major and minor pipe bursts.
5. That a clear and comprehensive compensation policy be developed by Thames Water, covering clean up/insurance/compensation and goodwill payments. This should be clearly communicated to customers and available on the company website. Compensation for inconvenience should be formally recognised and included in the policy.
6. That the Mayor, GLA and London Boroughs support the campaign of the Fire Brigade Union to become the statutory Emergency Response Service for flooding, as recommended by the Pitt Review in 2008, in view of the recent major bursts resulting in severe flooding and given the fact that such occurrences are more likely in the future due to the ageing Victorian trunk mains network across London.
7. That the London Plan should include provision, when planning permission for basements is being requested, to ensure that a risk assessment is carried out prior to approval to ensure the risk to life of flooding is minimised.
Lewisham’s chair of the scrutiny inquiry, Councillor Alan Hall said: “I think most people will be amazed that the Fire Brigade do not have the statutory responsibility for flooding. These incidents can put lives at risk. They cause major disruption to the public. I am very pleased that Lewisham Council has got behind this call for the government to make the fire brigade the statutory service for flooding.”
Dave Green of the Fire Brigades’ Union said: “The FBU has been lobbying for over a decade for flooding to be made a statutory duty for the fire service across the UK. Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales have all seen the sense in this. It is only the Westminster government who see fit to exclude the fire service from this duty.
The reality is that the fire service does attend and will always attend flooding incidents across the UK. The public expect it and the fire service expect to. The reality is that the Conservatives want the job done on the cheap – as giving the fire service a statutory duty will mean committing finances to assist the fire service in attending such incidents. At the moment, resourcing for equipment and training comes out of existing budgets.”
Lewisham Council agreed to fully support the campaign to make the fire brigade the statutory emergency service.
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