Chief executive ready to face the public tonight over loss of water supply in Leighton Buzzard

The community of Leighton Buzzard will tonight (Tuesday) be hoping to hear reassurances that Anglian Water has learnt lessons from the major incident in the town last month which left 20,000 homes without supplies.

During the weekend of December 13-16, a faulty valve resulted in ongoing disruption as Anglian Water struggled to fix the problem.

Bottled water at Tesco. Photo Anglian Water

Bottled water at Tesco. Photo Anglian Water

In the aftermath of the trouble, Anglian Water agreed to stage a public meeting in the town so residents could learn more about what took place and what measures were being taken to reduce the risk of a repeat.

That meeting takes place at 7pm this evening at Leighton Buzzard Library Theatre, with Peter Simpson, the Chief Executive of Anglian Water due to be in attendance.

He could be in for a rough ride as many customers have contacted the LBO expressing anger that they have not received compensation they believe they are entitled to.

Speaking ahead of the meeting with the company, Leighton-Linslade Town Council leader, Cllr Steve Jones said: “Really, we are concerned that Anglian Water tell us that this is unlikely to happen again in the future.

Anglian Water chief executive Peter Simpson

Anglian Water chief executive Peter Simpson

“What are they doing to ensure their infrastructure is robust enough?”

An Anglian Water spokeswoman, said:“We are very sorry for the water supply disruption which affected many residents.

“With the kind support of the town council, we invite customers to a public meeting.

“At the meeting we will have senior managers on hand to explain what happened, how we dealt with the complex supply restoration, share the lessons we have learned, and the changes we have already started to make.

“Independently chaired, this meeting will provide an opportunity for customers to raise concerns, as well as discussing how we can support the town to acknowledge the inconvenience caused.

“We look forward to seeing you.”

It has been revealed that Anglian Water lost £15m due to the incident.

Mr Simpson met with South West Beds MP Andrew Selous in the House of Commons on January 16, and revealed £700,000 of compensation had been paid out to 17,000 people typically ranging between £30 to £120 per household.

The cost of the emergency response over the weekend in question was around £600,000 and the repair works have cost around £200,000.

There was also an overall performance loss to Anglian Water of around £13.5 million from the failure to provide water, meaning a total loss to company of around £15m.

Mr Selous said: “Anglian Water are installing two new air valves on the 24-inch water mains, one at Shenley Hill and one at the Heath and Reach reservoir outlet.

“They are also installing two new sluice valves as well as adding a new wash out at Steppingley. These works are scheduled to be completed by the middle of March this year.

“Peter Simpson said that his confidence in the robustness of the system has been ‘massively’ increased by these three actions.”

Anglian Water is a privately-owned company and paid no dividends last year and is paying no dividends this year. The owners are Canadian and Australian pension funds, an Abu Dhabi fund and a number of United Kingdom local authority pension funds.

The company is paying £3,000 for a school pond restoration project in Leighton Buzzard as well as providing £10,000 to Leighton-Linslade Town Council.

Mr Selous added: “Anglian Water will be coming to Leighton Buzzard on January 28 to make a full explanation to the people of the town for what went wrong and to explain the actions that they have taken subsequently to try to prevent a re-occurrence.”

> LBO reporter Stewart Carr will be at the meeting to report on the debate. If you’re going to be there too, why not email your thoughts afterwards to news@lbobserver.co.uk