Transport chief Claudia Webbe slams Thames Water for Angel flood which saw ‘lives devastated’

Cllr Claudia Webbe, Islington Council’s executive member for transport and environment. Photograph: Islington Council

Islington’s transport chief has slammed Thames Water over a burst water main in Angel which saw “lives devastated by the failures” of the “profit-making” firm.

Cllr Claudia Webbe, executive member for transport and environment, said the December 2016 burst shows why companies like Thames Water must be held to account on behalf of residents “who were badly let down”.

Her remarks come as the Town Hall endorsed 28 recommendations from a scrutiny review into how to prevent future flooding at last night’s meeting of Islington Council’s Executive.

Speaking to the Islington Citizen after the meeting, Cllr Webbe said: “Our scrutiny review has led the way for London in terms of holding an organisation like Thames Water to account.

“Thames Water is essentially a profit-making organisation which runs a basic need that used to be in the hands of the public.

“Therefore it’s important that organisations like this are effectively held to account and the public have a greater say in how they operate – particularly when their lives are devastated by the failures of an organisation which is making huge profits.

“Nowhere more is that exemplified than what happened with the huge burst water main on Upper Street which affected so many businesses and so many residents, who were badly let down.”

Islington Council ordered the review by its Policy and Performance Scrutiny Committee after a water main in Angel burst on 4 December 2016, flooding the street and forcing 100 people to flee their homes.

The flood affected parts of Upper Street, Charlton Place, Camden Passage and Colebrooke Row near the Angel Islington.

The committee’s review concluded that Thames Water’s response to this and other burst water mains was “unacceptable” and that the company’s lack of investment in its ageing Victorian pipes and infrastructure helped cause the bursts.

Its 28 recommendations include better maintenance and response times, a special “emergency hotline” to the fire brigade for pipe bursts, and more public information about flooding and how to claim insurance for flood damage.

The council’s response notes that many of the recommendations have already been acted on, such as a public information campaign by Thames Water.

Sensor units have been installed to monitor water mains on Upper Street, and the council has set up an Angel BID Working Group to make sure residents affected by the flood receive compensation from Thames Water.

Council officers will report back to the scrutiny committee in 12 months’ time on the steps being taken.