Posted by: westlancashirerecord | November 7, 2017

A Comedy Of Errors At Public Flooding Meeting

 The Primary Attendees included, left, Cathryn Ross of Ofwat. Also  at the meeting were Rosie Cooper MP; Paul Foster UU; Andy Brown EA; Stephen Kenyon UU; Keith Haslett UU; Rachel Crompton LCC; John Hodson WLBC; Matthew Connor EA; Matt Hammer Fire Service

Gavin Rattray of the Burscough Flood Group reports in more detail about the meeting held last Friday.

“The evening started with presentations by UU, the EA and OFWAT in which UU notably took the opportunity to put an unbelievable gloss on our flooding problems (they have improved according to their spreadsheets) and OFWAT mentioned UU as being better than a lot of water companies but also emphasised that OFWAT wouldn’t tolerate talk of OFWAT not allowing UU a budget to resolve issues because OFWAT would and that it expected to get value for money from UU. [As we all know shareholders seem to be the main recipients of UU’s value for money]

“Questions and answers after that started with many angry farmers/residents quite reasonably at issue with the plans for the satellite pumping stations being turned off. This was countered with a pugilistic defence from the EA; including insisting that they stations weren’t being cut because of EA budget cuts and that they had a great budget. This was a complete about turn from the previous flood meeting I attended when the EA stated that budget cuts had necessitated cutting the pumping stations.

“LCC robustly defended itself from claims that their blocked drains and gulleys were causing flooding by detailing the scrupulously organised high efficiency of their gulley cleaning operation meant they were a thing of the past. That defence quickly turned to nought as residents politely interrupted LCC with pictures of completely blocked drains.

“LCC was also questioned by Ormskirk flooding group, asking why LCC was keeping the flooding report produced with residents’ assistance secret. There was a moment of comedy when Rosie Cooper said she also hadn’t seen it and LCC immediately offered her a copy; only for Rosie to tell LCC that they could probably wallpaper their office with the number of unanswered requests that she’d made for the report.

“More comedy followed when WLBC’s competence was questioned in flooding by an ex long term employee, who knew that the only (we all assumed) standing order in the event of flood was not to criticise Senior Officers or the Chief Executive Kim Webber [who’d no doubt had all gone home]. This was defended by WLBC as incompetence due to a structural change in the working but this defence quickly had to be abandoned (as are residents in floods) when WLBC found they had the dates of the change wrong.

“UU rightly received a hostile reception along with a host of grisly photographs from their customers in Alexander Close, Gower Gardens and elsewhere; one of whom stated that sewer flooding has been a permanent fixture in Alexander Close for 40 years. One can only wonder what possessed WLBC (hint New Housing Bonus) to recently allow the construction of additional new houses there and whether those new residents will be told about the flooding before they move in; and whether they will be able to insure their homes against the present fortnightly sewer flood risk.

“BFG were able to ask some question near the end and started by asking OFWAT how it could be sure it was getting value for money when UU had caused under-reporting, by sending operators home for a week beginning during the 2015 Boxing Day flood and therefore seriously reduced the numbers of homes that appeared on their flooding register. BFG further illuminated OFWAT that UU’s division of sewer floods into flooding other causes (FOC) or hydraulic inadequacy (HI) can mean that a hydraulically inadequate sewer may never be listed as such, and therefore upgraded, whilst technical deficiencies [such as collapses, tree roots, dislodged bricks etc] continue to be found; and problems DO seem to continue (maybe indefinitely) on some sewers such as the sewers in Lordsgate Lane adjacent to the Bull and Dog pub. OFWAT took a great deal of interest in both those points”.

So remember, “What United Utilities is responsible for: the big public sewers that take sewage and rainwater run-off to wastewater treatment works (the pipes from your property’s boundary that lead into the public sewer). Many of the shared drains where several properties’ drains meet together before they join the public sewer – if you suspect that this is blocked, please Contact us”. And “What your local authority is responsible for: road gullies; these are small grate-covered openings at the edge of roads, and are used to drain surface water from the highway. If you’re worried about blockages or smells from these please call your council”. A comedy of errors it may have been, but tell that to the residents of Alexander Close and others who suffer the incompetence of UU on a regular basis!

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