Water, water everywhere – or not as it turns out in recent days.
Twice in six weeks my constituents, and residents in nearby Eastleigh and Southampton, have faced a lengthy spell with no running water in their homes.
The week leading up to Christmas - for thousands of households in Chandler’s Ford and across South Winchester - was bad enough but you could just about be generous given the big freeze followed by the big thaw and tens of thousands of major leaks across the network.
Last week’s incident, at first glance, seems to be a totally different scenario in terms of its’ cause but the outcome was exactly the same. No water.
So on Tuesday, alongside Caroline Nokes MP and Paul Holmes MP, I hauled the bosses of Southern Water to Westminster to explain themselves.
They were left in no doubt how we, on behalf of you, feel about the current state of things and what we expect to happen next in terms of investment, compensation and repairing any shred of confidence left in their company
CEO Lawrence Gosden admitted to us “Southern Water is not in a good state” and that found no argument from us.
A speedy internal - plus independent - investigation is underway and they’ve agreed that will be published in full.
Furthermore, we will together visit the Otterbourne site (I visited myself earlier this month) to see the major £800m investment taking place to improve resilience when the next ‘asset failure’ takes place during ‘planned maintenance work’.
We simply cannot have a situation where 24,000 households – and thousands of businesses –are left for up to five days without water because one accident, error or malfunction takes the whole grid offline.
Southern Water have also agreed to our demand that a more bespoke and flexible compensation scheme is in place; one that passes the reasonableness test is how I view it.
All households impacted by the December and February outages will receive double compensation upwards of £180. You don’t need to do anything, it will be credited automatically to your water bill.
And I will be driving through case-by-case claims which are, understandably, being raised with me by pubs who lost days of trading in half-term or farmers who (again) face the loss of livestock or punishing veterinary bills as a result of little or no access to water last week.
Domestic or business constituents who need my help with any of this shouldn’t hesitate to get in touch. My casework team are here to help.
Secondly, on a not unrelated subject, water quality and what we call combined storm overflows.
I don’t do fake news (and I never get in the gutter of negative partisan campaigning) but I do try to educate myself on the subject because there is, rightly, great public concern around what happens when foul water overflows into our waterways.
It's fiendishly complicated, and almost every country in the developed world is battling the fact storm and foul water goes into the same system, but this Government is turning things around (unlike any of its predecessors) through the Environment Act 2022.
If any constituents are genuinely interested in the issue, I have a special web-page which explains how we got here and what we’re doing to fix it at stevebrine.com/factorfake-waterquality
Finally, I have launched a brand new podcast ‘Prevention is the new cure’ discussing all things health and NHS with a political twist. I am joined by Dr Helen Stokes-Lampard who is a leading medical academic and a practicing GP. You can find it on all the main podcast platforms including Spotify and Apple.