Ashfield water shortage: Locals demand explanation from Severn Trent Chief Executive Liz Garfield

The offices of Ashfield District Council.
By Andrew Topping, Local Democracy Reporter

The chief executive of a company that left thousands of homes without water on the three hottest days of the year should turn up in person to explain what happened, local councillors have demanded.

Homes in Kirkby, Sutton and Huthwaite had no access to running water during blistering 30C temperatures on July 18, 19 and 20.

Bottled water had to be handed out to residents by Severn Trent Water and businesses and schools were forced to close their days on what turned out to be the hottest days of the year.

The water cut-off came just 14 months after a similar incident, across Ashfield District, in May 2020.

Speaking at a meeting of the full council on Thursday July 29, councillors unanimously backed calls for an inquiry.

They also called on Liz Garfield, chief executive of Severn Trent, to attend the upcoming State of Ashfield Debate in the autumn and answer their questions.

Councillor Samantha Deakin (Ash Inds), who proposed the motion, said: “Thousands of residents had no water, which was a dangerous situation for the old, vulnerable and the young.

“Not only were our residents affected, but also businesses closed and our schools shut down.

“After water supply problems last year Severn Trent gave us assurances that, in the event of water supply being affected and for whatever reason, they had robust emergency procedures in place.

“These clearly did not happen last week.”

Council leader Jason Zadrozny added: “What happened last week was an absolute disaster.

“I’m close to calling it a humanitarian disaster because Severn Trent behaved in a diabolical way on the hottest day of the year.

“I have written to Ofwat and asked them to undertake an independent inquiry into this debacle, and to send a representative alongside Liz Garfield to the State of Ashfield Debate.”

Responding to the concerns, Severn Trent apologised for the shortage and committed to attending a public meeting.

The provider added the shortage was down to several equipment failures and technical issues, which “proved to be quite complicated”.

A spokesperson said: “We’re extremely sorry that some of our customers in Huthwaite, Sutton in Ashfield and Kirkby in Ashfield experienced low pressure or water supply issues last week.

“We completely understand how difficult it is to be without water at any time, but especially during such hot weather.

“We arranged for bottled water to be delivered to vulnerable customers on our priority services register as well as setting up bottled water stations in the area.

“We’ve committed to attending a public meeting, that will be held in the Ashfield area, as soon as one can be arranged, and our teams will be out and about locally in the coming weeks, speaking to customers about any issues or concerns they may have. Again, we’re truly sorry.”


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