Worthing and Adur councils have decided to take Southern Water to the national water ombudsman.
At a meeting on Thursday, November 30, the councils’ joint overview and scrutiny committee voted to complain to the water ombudsman over Southern Water’s refusal to attend a public meeting.
Members were told by council officers that Southern Water had pulled the idea of a public meeting with the scrutiny committee and had offered a private meeting instead. Members unanimously rejected this idea, as Southern Water had previously cancelled a tour of one of its pumping stations organised for the committee, the day before it was supposed to go ahead.
Adur’s chair of the committee Joss Loader (Ind, Marine) said the response from Southern Water to the councils’ requests was ‘totally unacceptable’, since the company was ‘effectively a monopoly’ on water services in the area and needed to be held accountable.
She said the case had a ‘huge amount of public interest’ and, with the cancellations, she said the only question left to ask was ‘what have they got to hide?’.
Other members echoed the frustrations, calling the decision to offer a private meeting ‘inappropriate’ and ‘unacceptable’.
In a statement, a Southern Water spokesperson said: “Councils are vital partners throughout our region, as we work towards a shared goal of protecting and enhancing our environment, and providing the best possible service to customers. We are prioritising direct engagement with our customers and communities through drop-in events, where we can talk to our customers face-to-face about a wide range of issues and listen to concerns.