Agenda and minutes
Venue: Council Chamber Council Offices Market Street Newbury. View directions
Contact: Gordon Oliver
To remind Members of the need to record the existence and nature of any personal, disclosable pecuniary or other registrable interests in items on the agenda, in accordance with the Members’ Code of Conduct.
There were no declarations of interest received.
Purpose: To review matters relating to the activities of Thames Water and the Environment Agency that affect West Berkshire.
In relation to Thames Water, the review will seek to:
a) understand what has been done since the last scrutiny review in September 2022 to address issues associated with sewage discharges affecting local watercourses;
b) what other investment has been carried out to improve the existing fresh and foul water infrastructure in West Berkshire;
c) confirm what additional investment is planned to address known problems with fresh and foul water infrastructure in the District; and
d) seek assurance over progress in upgrading fresh and foul water infrastructure to support major developments in the District.
In relation to the Environment Agency, the review will seek to:
a) understand the role of the Environment Agency in terms of monitoring water quality in our watercourses; and
b) understand the powers available to the Environment Agency to take enforcement against pollution by the water companies, and what action has been taken against Thames Water in recent years.
Councillor Carolyne Culver introduced the item on Thames Water and the Environment Agency (Agenda Item 3).
Richard Aylard CVO (Sustainability Director) and Karen Nelson (Network Operations Manager) gave a presentation on behalf of Thames Water, which was an updated version of the presentation circulated with the agenda. Key points from the presentation are summarised below:
· Thames Water had received many questions and offered pick these up separately if they were not answered in the meeting.
· Leadership changes at Thames Water were summarised.
· Thames Water’s financial position was outlined:
o £14bn of debt set against an asset base of £19bn.
o 97% of debt was fixed in real terms so exposure to rising debt costs was limited.
o The company had a strong liquidity position, with £3.6bn of cash and committed funding.
o To support a turnaround plan, shareholders had provided £500m of new equity and committed a further £750m by 2025.
o £2.5bn of additional equity support would be provided between 2025 and 2030.
o This was in addition to significant overspending by Thames Water in both the previous and current periods.
o Although spend was less than required, it was more than had been allowed for by the regulator when they set the bills for these periods. Around 25% of any overspend was charged to customers, and 75% to shareholders.
· The draft five-year plan for 2025-2030 was explained:
o A record level of investment of £18bn was proposed (a 40% increase). This was considered to be the maximum that would be both affordable for customers and deliverable by Thames Water.
o £6.6bn was proposed for environmental improvements, of which £885m was for reducing storm overflows.
o It was noted that the plan was subject to change following discussions with regulators – it was expected that the plan would be finalised in a year’s time.
· Targets for improving environmental performance by 2030 included:
o 22% reduction in leakage.
o 30% reduction in pollution incidents.
o 28% reduction in storm overflows.
o 15% reduction in sewer blockages.
o Generating 295GWh from renewable sources.
· Implications for household water bills were summarised:
o For every £1 of customer’s bills, 48p would fund infrastructure improvements and 20p would fund operational costs.
o A document was available on the Thames Water website which provided further detail.
· In relation to storm discharges:
o Thames Water had been the first water company to set targets for reducing discharges - 50% reduction in total duration and 80% reduction in sensitive catchments. Reducing total duration was felt to be better than reducing the number of discharges, but central government had since set a target of 10 overflows per year on average by 2050. Thames Water had reworked its targets on this basis. A 24% reduction was proposed for 2030. Figures would be averaged across 10 years. Last year, the 2030 target was achieved because it was a very dry year.
o In relation to dry discharges, it was noted that there was no standard definition of what constituted a ... view the full minutes text for item 30.