Town Council Unanimously Votes No Confidence in Thames Water

Henley Town Council has passed a vote of “no confidence” in Thames Water. The motion, passed unanimously at a Full Council meeting last Tuesday, was met with applause from the public.

In a second vote, the council agreed to call on the Government to renationalise Thames Water. Mayor Rory Hunt said, “A stat in the report that the Town Clerk kindly put together for us is absolutely stabbing me. 72 billion litres of untreated sewage have gone into the Thames over 20 years and that’s just the amount that can be proved. I couldn’t quite believe that, I thought it might have been a misprint when I first read it. Thames Water have also been shown to be economical with the truth and a judge has found them to have misled an investigation with the Environment Agency in 2017, and they also had a serious incident in Henley which killed over a thousand fish for which they were fined a mere 2.3 million pounds. They also intend to put bills up for Henley residents and the e-coli levels found in the River Loddon, which as I’m sure you’re all aware feeds into the Thames above Henley, were 23 times over the safe limit. This is a situation that cannot be allowed to continue. It is, I believe, in the public interest to not only pass this but also to call to nationalise. If they are nationalised then they are accountable to the public and to the public good, not to their shareholders.”

He continued, “Water is something that should be, it is, a human right and the idea that it should be owned by foreign investors with an incentive towards profit, not to the people is something I really struggle to reconcile morally and thus I move the motion that we call upon this His Majesty’s Government to renationalise Thames Water.”

Deputy Mayor, Councillor Tom Buckley, added, “Thames Water has a responsibility to this town and to every other town in Thames Valley to try and deliver good quality services. The United Nations classifies the right to water as a human right. It cannot be that a government will sell off its resources. There’s no competition here; you can’t pick and choose your water. It is a monopoly. From this perspective, I think we have to look at Thames Water and say they are not doing good enough for us in this town, in this region, and in this area.”

Henley Mermaid Laura Reineke, speaking during public comments, said, “As Henley Mermaids, we’ve campaigned for the last two years, and initially led by Jo Rob’s research, and this has catapulted us five normal middle-aged women into this arena. We have all worked tirelessly as a team and individually to educate and raise awareness about the devastating effects pollution has on our waterways and more specifically the Thames in our area. We are delighted that the council and town are behind us. It’s imperative we get this epically mismanaged water company to clean up its act.”

She also stated, “We need bold ambitious targets, and a fast, future-proof commitment not just from Thames Water but across all three parties running for election. With a unanimous vote of no confidence, we are not only amplifying our voices but stopping the assault waged on our precious river and calling a halt to the financially led and morally questionable running of our shared resource.”

Kate Oldridge, Chair of Greener Henley, expressed her support, “On behalf of Greener Henley, I would like to express our unequivocal support of the motion proposed by the Mayor, and we hope that other councils will follow. We’re living in a time where the preservation and protection of our natural environment has never been more critical, yet our community continues to face severe challenges particularly regarding the quality and management of our water resources. […] This is not just an environmental issue – it’s a public health crisis and a blatant disregard for our community’s well-being. Thames Water has repeatedly failed to meet its obligations resulting in the pollution of our precious rivers and streams. The mismanagement undermines our efforts to promote sustainability and protect our local environment. We deserve better stewardship of our water resources.”

Councillor Tony Hoskins opposed the motion calling to renationalise Thames Water, arguing that the successor would lack the funds to address the issues. In response, Councillor Ian Reismann pointed out, “We need to bear in mind Thames Water is effectively insolvent. Two months ago it defaulted on its debt. Now that debt has been built up since privatisation when the debts were written off and they’ve now built up 15 billion pounds worth of debt which they cannot repay.”

He continued, “The shareholders have declared Thames Water to be uninvestable. They refused to put the money in that Thames Water has said they need and as a result, what we have seen is a claim by Thames Water to OFWAT to increase average water bills by £735 by 2030. So in answer to Councillor Hoskins’s point whether a successor organisation could afford it, well Thames Water can’t afford it; they’re asking us to pay to subsidise that 15 billion pounds in debt that they’ve used to pay dividends repeatedly.”

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