The MP for Tiverton and Honiton, Richard Foord, has hit out at South West Water over its handling of supply problems during last weekend, December 17 and 18.
Philippa Davies www.midweekherald.co.uk
Residents in Axminster, Honiton, Seaton and Tiverton were left without water after the change to milder weather caused pipes to burst.
But information from South West Water was communicated via social media and people reported problems reporting localised faults.
Mr Foord said many people said they had spent more than an hour on the phone trying to get through to South West Water’s customer service team. He added that the system for reporting problems via the company’s website stopped working after just a few hours.
The Liberal Democrat MP is now calling for South West Water to ‘shake up its processes’.
He said: “It’s shocking that at the first sign of trouble South West Water’s whole process seemed to fall apart. We can appreciate the risk posed by a sudden shift in temperatures, but why wasn’t it properly planned for?
“I had people reaching out to me in anger, confusion or distress over the course of several days. They woke up to find themselves without access to water and found it all but impossible to get a clear answer out of South West Water about what was happening.
“With South West Water’s phone lines backed-up, and their online reporting channel breaking within hours, the only way anyone could get reliable updates was via social media. It cannot be right that such a vital service only communicates via Twitter.
“Worse still, it took a long time for support to be mobilised. Emergency water provision was slow to be rolled out, with many vulnerable people reporting they still didn’t have water days after the first outage.”
On Monday morning (December 19), when some towns and villages were still without water, South West Water confirmed that compensation payments of £30 per 12 hours of outage will be issued to affected customers. However, these payments can take up to 20 working days to arrive.
Mr Foord is urging South West Water to change the way it responds to these incidents by setting up a dedicated emergency phoneline to report faults, paying compensation more quickly, and investing properly in local water infrastructure to stop these problems at their source.