A water company is blaming people working from home for its need to impose a hosepipe ban in Sussex and Kent from Monday (June 26).
South East Water – which supplies more than two million homes and businesses – said there has been a 20% rise in demand for drinking water in commuter towns at the same time as the hot weather and lower rainfall has affected supplies.
David Hinton, the water company’s chief executive cited remote workers as a “key factor” behind the need for the hosepipe ban because it has “increased drinking water demand”.
Hinton wrote to customers and said that the way “drinking water is being used across the south-east has changed considerably” since 2020.
“The rise of working from home has increased drinking water demand in commuter towns by around 20% over a very short period, testing our existing infrastructure,” Hinton wrote.
Thousands of homes and businesses served by South East water have already been hit by no tap water or low pressure for up to a week, earlier this month. Some schools were also forced to close after the outages that were caused by a burst water main and leaks. Supplies were also hit in December when winter weather burst pipes leaving thousands without a supply.
In his letter Hinton also blamed the hot weather and low rainfall since April and added: “Our reservoir and aquifer stocks of raw water, essential to our water supply but not ready to be used, are in a good position. However, demand for treated mains water, which takes time to process and deliver, was greater than we could meet.”
South East Water customers are not impressed and have set up a petition calling for a change in ownership of the company. They said lack of investment is the real problem.
Julia Wrobel started the petition and said Hinton making remote workers culpable was “victim blaming”. She added: “This is a deflection from the real issue which is how to stop South East Water paying away all our money in dividends rather than reinvesting in our water infrastructure, which is a public utility and a human right.
“We are supposed to be the Garden of England. We are not supposed to have hosepipe bans for two years running.”
Working from home had no impact on govt productivity, minister confirms
Meanwhile ministers have confirmed that working from home has had no impact on government productivity, despite high profile campaigns led by Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg to get civil servants back into the office.
Johnson claimed remote workers were “eating cheese and making coffee” at home when they should have been otherwise engaged while his efficiency minister Rees-Mogg was among a number of ministers demanding people return to their desks after Covid restrictions were lifted.
However, Mims Davies, minister at the department of work and pensions said research conducted “across the civil service” shows working from home has no impact on “overall productivity”.
PCS, the union which represents civil servants has called on Johnson and Rees-Mogg to apologise for their slurs on remote workers.
Mark Serwotka, PCS general secretary said: “The attack on homeworking was always a political attempt to justify an unjustifiable attack on our hard-working members.
“This new evidence backs up what we’ve always said: that homeworking does not have any impact on productivity.
“Perhaps Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg, both of whom accused homeworkers of being lazy, should apologise for their slurs and accept they have lost the homeworking argument once and for all.”