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Council's Water Champion slams Southern Water over customer complaints

Lewes District Council's Water Champion has hit out at Southern Water over the high number of customer complaints it receives and the way these are handled.

Cllr O'Brien news image

Cllr O'Brien news image
Councillor Emily O'Brien, who is also Cabinet Member for Climate, Nature and Food Systems, has spoken out following the publication of the Consumer Council for Water's (CCW's) annual household customer complaints report.

The watchdog found that Southern Water was the 'most complained about' company, receiving almost three times more complaints than the overall average for waste and sewerage companies.

The CCW named Southern Water and Thames Water as the 'standout poor performers' in handling complaints from customers over the past year and that their customers are 'being let down by a failure to understand and deal with the causes of high levels of complaints'.

Councillor O'Brien said: "Southern Water receives far and away the most complaints in the country for a water company. Not only are residents not getting the service from Southern Water that they need but to compound matters, when complaints are lodged, many of these are handled poorly and with delays. We raised this issue directly with Southern Water on Thursday and made it clear residents expect better."

On Thursday (October 5), Lewes District Council held a panel meeting to scrutinise Southern Water.

Councillor Paul Keene, Chair of the PPAC (Policy, Performance and Advisory Committee) Southern Water Panel, said:

"The public should be confident the panel is holding Southern Water to account and called them to discuss the acceptability of their poor performance.

"Working in tandem with the Water Champion, the panel was very pleased Southern Water accepted its failings as outlined by panel members in the meeting. The situation is so bad that both parties agreed there is visceral tension around all the issues the public are aware of, but both parties have agreed on the need to collaborate, and we are committed to doing everything we can as a council both to highlight the problems and to help Southern Water find answers."

While the panel and the Water Champion are independent of each other, they are both working to hold Southern Water to account.

The council has been challenging the water firm on its actions for more than two years, passing a motion in 2021 that called on Southern Water to say how it will stop discharges of raw sewage in the district.

The CCW report revealed there were 232,817 household complaints made to water companies in England and Wales in 2022/23.

Published on October 11, 2023.

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Last modified on 23 May 2024