Thames Water dismal water leakages & capital spending

Whilst all the focus is on sewage leakages into the Thames, let us not forget according to Thames Water’s own records, water leakages run almost at a quarter of all their pipes and the attempt to replace them has seen no end of road works. Ask any black cabbie in London, who causes the most work roads in Central London? Thats after having this responsibility since 1989 and over 3 decades, we still see no real progress has been made, as it continues to literally be money down the drain for its customers.

On top of this we have their poor performance of capital works. One only needs to point to their desalination plant in Beckton which has largely been lying empty since being built in 2010 for £250 million from our bills. It was approved by the then Mayor of London, Boris Johnson after the previous Mayor, Ken Livingstone had refused planning permission for it.

It has been built at great expense of Thames Water customers, using a process called reverse osmosis to turn saltwater into drinking water. It was meant to have had the capacity to pipe drink water into 400,000 homes in London by drawing on 100m litres a day of water from the Thames during a drought. In the meantime Thames Water has admitted the high-tech plant is off-line and been hardly used, if at all.

The Glazers are notoriously known for taking major dividends annually out of Man Utd and investing very little back into the football club. The same can be said about Thames Water and their relationship with their 16 million customers. You only have to look at their performance on water leakages and capital expenditure to see this very clearly.

Diplomats still not paying CC

I am glad to see that TfL have not forgotten the unpaid congestion charge bills of  diplomats in London. As it almost 20 years ago l brought up the issue at the London Assembly as a new AM representing all Londoners, as l saw it as an abuse of Londoners hospitality particularly in Central London. 

I also brought it up under Boris Johnson administration when he was Mayor of London between 2008 & 2016. The diplomats should be shamed into having to pay up these fees due to TfL. Can you imagine what could be done for Londoners public transport options if we had £144 million to spend on their priorities, as reported by TfL this week in the Evening Standard. 

The charge is not a tax under British law and the charge is not dissimilar to the charge you pay to get into Manhattan UN HQ via its bridges and tunnels. If its good enough for British diplomats to pay in New York then why not here with US and other countries diplomats. It is of direct benefit to diplomats, as it helps give them more space on the roads of Central London. And could be interpreted as an abuse of our hospitality . So do pay up asap and lets avoid a diplomat incident over it all annually. 

Link

As a school child l went to the opening of the Thames Barrier 40 years ago, so l am glad to congratulate it on its 40th birthday and its outstanding service to Londoners. 

It really is the greatest legacy of the Greater London Authority (GLC) left to London after it was closed down as a political institution representing Londoners almost 40 years ago. Nothing since has unfortunately come close to its impact to Londoners lives as it has secured Londoners from flooding in Central London more often then is admitted with the on set now of climate change increasing the likelihood of flooding, so that the barriers have been put up more often than originally envisaged. So it was very much ahead of its time, and would now be considered a critical means of climate adaptation more so then flooding control. Now under Environment Agency control and management, it is likely to last till 2070. 

The sad reality is that the Mayor of London office created at the turn of the century has little say in water matters in Greater London and that is a crying shame whether it be the water utilities like Thames water who provide most of Londoners their water or Port of London Authority which controls the Thames and the Canal & Rivers Trust the canals and tributaries of the Thames. 

Other major cities of the world have authority over the waterways of their cities and their water supplies. It is about time the Mayor of London had some powers over their activities at least on such a critical environmental asset of any city, its water.  Lets hope for some change their under a future labour administration. 

TACTICAL VOTING WOT WON IT BIG – SEBRA Summer 2024


Who would have thought that when the Tories pushed through first-pass-the-post voting for the Mayoral contests, it would mean Sadiq would romp home with an increase majority for a third term as Mayor of London? Clearly not those who proposed and passed this change but thats actually what has happened, as it forced Lib Dem and Green voters to vote tactically rather then for their candidates when they had the choice of either Sadiq Khan or Susan Hall on the Mayoral ballot. The latter of whom made no overtunes to them at all on their policy priorities with her anti-ULEZ position and indeed probably frighten many of them with her historical social media activities.

All the misguided excitement the day after the polls was solely based on the turn out figures of 40.5 per cent being 1.5 per cent lower then 2021 but also the GLA constituency figures suggested that Outer Londoner had turned out more than Inner London. Posing the question, of whether we going to see a shock result given the low turn out and first-past-the-post would make it closer even though the polls suggested Sadiq and Labour were some 20 per cent ahead.




In the end Sadiq romped home winning by 275,828 votes with a 10 per cent plus lead with much tactical voting clearly by Lib Dems and Greens and maybe even by some Tories! The latter something l detected after the declarations in my local pubs. Pollsters do also need again to look at their methods being some 10 percentage points out and personally like the French, l would not have any polls two weeks before the actual vote itself. They can have some undue influences particularly amongst commentators.

Let’s not forget the London Assembly

The results were remarkable stable at London’s City Hall with Mayor being re-elected and the make-up of the Assembly almost identical to previous election. In spite of some little dramas around individual constituency results, the final outcome is just one less Tory Assembly Member (AM) – replaced with one Reform AM.




With the London Assembly the reality is that things have not change that much at all, with 11 Labour AMs, 3 Green AMs, 2 Lib Dem AMs except the Tories lost one of their seats to Reform UK and are now down to 8 AMs. So critically Sadiq, will be able to still pass his annual budgets of fare freezes, meals for school kids and action on air pollution. Whilst the non-labour AMs totally 14 members, can still hold control of all the Scrutiny Committees which do much of their work during the year.

The one change in the Labour make up was of course the gain of West Central constituency covering City of Westminster, Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea and Hammersmith & Fulham, bringing in Cllr James Small-Edwards for the first time. A seating councillor for Bayswater in the City of Westminster already. Whilst we had a lower turnout then 2021 in West Central by 4 per cent, the Reform vote helped lose the seat for the Tories. Which by implications meant Labour lost one on the Labour Top up List via the d’Hondt system, a sad fate l have also suffered.

So it will back to much the same for the next four years in London regional government and hopefully a Labour government at the next General Election this year that can work with the Sadiq administration to improve matters for Londoners after 14 bleak years even for Londoners after austerity and brexit.

A copy of this blog has been published in SEBRA News W2 – Summer 2024 Edition 

Sadiq will be dependent on Lib Dem & Greens votes

Turn out data for the Mayor of London contest for 2024 is overall just over 40 at 40.5 per cent. The fourth lowest figure for Mayoral contests since 2000. 

With GLA constituencies like City & East London historical vote banks for Labour Mayors down to 31.17 per cent whilst Bexley & Bromley the Tory vote bank is up to 48.38 per cent for Tory Mayors. This while the level of voters turning out in all the other GLA constituencies is lower than previously recorded. 

So as the boxes for the votes open today, how many Lib Dems and Greens have voted for Sadiq to remain as Mayor of London will be critical. Surely he can depend on them to remain as Mayor over Susan Hall the Tory Mayoral candidate for London? 


https://londonelects.org.uk/im-voter/election-progress/verification-and-turnout-data

@londonelects #LondonElections2024

Thames Water – the Glazers of the UK water industry

The Glazers are notoriously known for taking major dividends annually out of Man Utd and investing very little back into the football club. The same can said about Thames Water and their relationship with their 15 million customers. You only have to look at their performance on water leakages and capital expenditure to see this very clearly.

For the poor performance of their capital works, one need only point to their desalination plant in Beckton which has largely been lying empty since being built in 2010 for £250 million from our bills. It was approved by the then Mayor of London, Boris Johnson after the previous Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone had refused planning permission for it. 

It has been built at great expense of Thames Water customers, using a process called reverse osmosis to turn saltwater into drinking water.  It was meant to have had the capacity to pipe drink water into 400,000 homes in London by drawing on 100m litres a day of water from the Thames during a drought but has to be utilized properly. In the meantime Thames Water has admitted the high-tech plant is off-line and been hardly used, if at all.  

According to Thames Water own records water leakages almost run at a quarter of all their pipes and the attempt to replace them has seen no end of road works. Ask any black cabbie in London, who causes the most work roads in Central London? Thats after having this responsibility since 1989 and over 3 decades, we still see no real progress has been made, as it continues to literally be money down the drain for its customers. 

So whilst most campaigners are rightly pointing out the water companies awful record on sewage outputs into rivers like the Thames and its tributaries, let’s also not forget their poor performance with dealing with water leaks and capital investments when they attempt to hike our water prices by up to 56 per cent. 

Trees Vs Bus Stops – who wins out?

Walking around the neighbourhood over Easter, l was aghast to see the above grand tree had been felled along the Marylebone Rd in front of the Landmark Hotel and just before a bus stop. Looking at the rings of the tree, it looked perfectly in good order yet it was chopped down. 

As l ask around what the reasoning behind this haste action to take down just a magnificent tree, others suggested it could have been because of the bus stop right next to it. Well if that is the case, surely the bus stop could have been moved either to the block further towards Baker St in front of the old NCR head quarters or maybe a block further down in front of the old Woolworths HQ?  Something l am sure the hotel would have welcomed! Or maybe the tree just needed pollarding down by cutting down some of the branches that get in the way of the buses coming into the bus stop to pick up passengers. 

What all this speculation tells me, is that in future public authorities like Transport for London responsible for the Marylebone Rd and its pavements, should at least notify us of their intended action by simply putting a notice up on the tree and maybe also hear other suggestions to their course of action.  Not dissimilar to a planning application but not quite. At least this way locals who notices these things, will be relieved of the shock of losing a grand old tree and it may well involve critical apprisial of the line of action intended. 

So in this case the tree won out against the bus stop, but can we at least have some sort of public consultation with notices put up of the attention of the public authority to take down a tree?;

Ramadan lights vs Easter lights – really?!

Last year for the first time, we saw Ramadan lights in a small parts of the West End funded by the Aziz Foundation. These were considered the first ever undertaken anywhere in the world.

In the second year, of Ramadan lights in the West End we find the month of fasting overlaps with Easter. Some suggest we should have had Easter lights instead. So maybe in future we can do so when a funder is found to sponsor such lights for the first time.  But it should not be thought of as one or the other in a zero sum game. Rather we should take the lead from Antwerp in Belgium where we had Muslims and Christian sharing a 2 km long table to share iftar at least.  

But there will be occasions to share the breaking of fasting in London as well in the last week of fasting like on Trafalgar Square. Not too dissimilar to street parties we would have on Royal occasions, only these would be annual events. 

Thameswater imminent demise

Thames Water demise has been a long time coming since Water privatisation in 1989. 

Its become one of the worst water companies for sewage leakages and you just need to walk along the Thames to see this clearly in West London. Data released by the Environment Agency shows a rise of 136 per cent in the number of sewage spills lasting more than 24 hours by Thames Water. 

Water leakages around about a fifth and resultant records levels of road works on the streets of Central London – ask any black cabbie and they will confirm this! They have even caused surface water floods in areas like Maida Vale, W9 with their new investments!  

It has also created a mountain of debt – £ 18 billion since 1989 when its debt was wiped out then before privatisation, so that 25 per per pound is used to service the debt by from customer water bills. And now the boss of Thames Water now saying that bills need to rise by 40 per cent by 2030; continue to let shareholders to take out dividends and they want to be off the hook on sewage leakages, regulation fines and restrictions. 

Thames Water ought to be allowed to go bankrupt and thereby run by an administrator. The shareholders would lose their equity but as they took to much cash out so deserve no sympathy and the bond holders would face a partial loss. That is capitalism, and it should not affect the water supply. 

For sure it wont be so simple. This is total failure of privatisation and regulation by OFWAT. Why on earth were they sold state assets on the cheap and then allowed to borrow billions and take those billions out as dividends? These “genius” financial engineers were much too smart for ministers or regulators. 

The privatisation of water in the late 1980s, was neo-liberalism going too far. 

Nowhere else in the world runs water the way that England does, it is an extreme ideological experiment. Water is a natural monopoly. Thames Water’s 15 million “customers” have no choice as consumers.

Right now the government seems to be planning to bail out Thames Water. By changing the rules on water company insolvency to allow temporary nationalisation and returning to private hands without cost. This while the Lib Dems call for special adminstration when it was last discussed at a parliamentary debate. This would be financially irresponsible and morally wrong to appease global capital and their allegiance to trickle down economics. Its an outrage and unsustainable situation for the people and the environment.

So an idea for our times – nationalise it and then mutualise it with millions of households as shareholders. 7 out of 10 people believe water belongs in public ownership. So lets not bail out Thames Water and take it back permanently. Now that would be appropriate way to end 14 of Tory rule and see the end of neo-liberal economics, a legacy of Thatcherism. Now that would truly be a new dawn.  

A version of this blog was also published in the  LabourHub as well, as can be seen below  

Bring Thames Water into public ownership!

 

 

SEBRA – Spring 2024

Public Inquiries in Paddington 

We have two major public inquiries in Paddington at 13 Bishops Bridge Road,W2 on Grenfell & COVID19 allowing local residents to watch the proceedings at first hand. The Grenfell inquiry was about fire safety in our homes particularly with cladding and not just social housing but also private blocks like the M& M Building. Whilst the COVID 19 Inquiry was on public health response by the govt during the pandemic.

The latter inquiry started in October 2023 at No 13 to cover the core UK decision-making and political governance though that did omitted Partygate. Request were made for material from Johnson as the Inquiry asked for diaries, notebooks and WhatsApp messages by Johnson. In the end Johnson had provided materials to the Cabinet Office, although it later emerged that he had only provided WhatsApp messages from May 2021 when he got a new phone following a security breach on his previous phone.

On the days Boris Johnson was scheduled, he arrived much earlier than the public to hide his entrance in and out of Inquiry where we had a public ready to remind him of what he had said and done before and during the lockdown and the impact it had on their families and loved ones. 

New Bakerloo line Entrance 

With the emerging new entrance to Paddington Railway Station along with the new entrance to the Bakerloo line from Praed St, it certainly makes the entrance a lot more spacious. It will certainly make for a entrance that can appear on the Paddington Bear movies, as in the first one they incredibly used the front of Marylebone station. Unbelievably really but they super imposed Paddington Railway Station signage on top of the red brick entrance of Marylebone Station for the first of Paddington Bear movies! 

Saying this, we could do with a lot more greenery like a few tress and planters maybe before the opening of the new Bakerloo line entrance into the tube? 

SUV parking in Central London 

Not surprisingly after hearing the results from Paris on SUV (Sports Utility Vehicles) parking, many wondered whether it can be done in London. Certainly in Central London boroughs like City of Westminster and Camden, is the short answer. As TfL does not have charge over all the roads and streets of London in the same way as London Councils do – only the red routes – so such an initiative would have to be lead naturally by critical Central London boroughs using their parking powers already.

Now SUVs are bigger and heavier cars and are quite simply incompatible with our goal of reducing global emissions as well as improving our air quality. The majority of SUVs are petrol-powered and consume about 20 per cent more fuel than the average car. Even if the car is electric or part electric the same sums apply as heavier cars require more energy. Bigger cars don’t just emit more, their tyres produce more particulate pollution as well. They also take up more parking space as any pedestrian and cyclists can tell you when getting pass them! And, to make matters worse, SUVs cause significantly more pedestrian fatalities than other cars. You only have to look at the tragic case of SUV crashing into an end-of-year tea party last summer at a girls’ preparatory school in Wimbledon, killing two school girls tragically. So the case for additional parking charging for SUVs is pretty clear cut.

So in short it can happen sooner than we realise in Central London, as SUVs do little of the off-road driving they were designed for in the first place.

Karen Buck MP & Barrie Taylor 

It would be remise of me not to note the departure of two key leading figures in Paddington over the past 40 years. It is very sad news that Karen Buck MP won’t be standing at the next election. She has been a brilliant constituency MP with a fantastic legacy of service.  

I was involved in her selection in 1997 for Regents Park & Kensington North as the Youth Officer at the CLP and we could not have foreseen her dedicated service for over 25 years for the north of the City of Westminster and beyond. 

Her decision to stand down was of course linked to Alderman Barrie Taylor’s state of health, her partner and soul mate. Barrie was a great mate of my dad’s, the late Cllr Qureshi as fellow councillors in Queens Park, City of Westminster. Barrie felt my dads death quite keenly & not surprising they were in many ways brothers. So from the Qureshi family we send them our deepest sympathies & condolences to Karen & Cosmo, Rebecca & Zack on his passing.