Victims of Finsbury Park flood face fight over losses
MP Corbyn: ‘Thames Water chiefs get huge bonuses while residents suffer’
25 October, 2019 — By Calum Fraser
Firefighters called out to the recent flooding in Finsbury Park
VICTIMS of a flood that devastated scores of homes and businesses have warned families who were caught up in the Finsbury Park deluge to “brace themselves” for a battle for compensation.
The intervention came from the action group set up in the wake of the Upper Street flooding in 2016 and after Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn met Thames Water chiefs and blasted bosses for receiving “huge bonuses” while residents suffer time and again.
In the latest disruption, around 170 homes and several businesses were hit after a “huge” 36-inch main pipe burst in Queen’s Drive and swamped the surrounding area in Finsbury Park this month.
Seventy-nine households have been forced into temporary accommodation, with some children having to travel from Enfield to get to school, according to Ambler Primary School deputy headteacher Sandy McNicholl.
Mr Corbyn, the MP for Islington North, said: “Instead of paying out huge bonuses to already well-paid bosses, Thames Water should focus on improving services for customers and dealing with leakage problems.”
He added: “My constituents have faced significant disruption to their lives and I have serious concerns about Thames Water’s response to this incident, particularly regarding communication with residents and compensation for those affected.”
Jo Willet’s house in Devonia Road, Angel, was one of the 40-odd homes destroyed by a burst main in Upper Street just before Christmas in 2016.
She helped set up an action group so that the households and many shopkeepers from the Camden Passage area who were caught up in the flood could work together to hold Thames Water to account.
“Thames are very powerful,” the 58-year-old said. “I personally think the law needs changing.
“There is barely any recognition for sentimental objects that are destroyed and for the stress the whole experience causes.”
She added: “Everyone in Finsbury Park should brace themselves for a long struggle.”
Thames Water is a private utility company responsible for a majority of the water supply in Greater London and the Thames Valley. Water supplies were privatised in the late 1980s.
Labour have pledged to bring the services back in-house if they are elected at the next general election. It is argued that the private sector does not work in this instance because there is not an alternative supplier to compete with Thames Water
Ms Willet said: “Thames seems to have a licence to print money for their shareholders. They can charge people and it keeps coming.
Flooding at Fink’s Salt and Sweet cafe in Mountgrove Road
“I think they would rather suffer floods and limit payments to the victims as they reckon that’s cheaper, but for the victims it is devastating.”
Devonia Road residents and Camden Passage businesses were offered a maximum compensation of £1,500 for distress and lost sentimental items.
Jess Blackstone, who runs Fink’s Salt and Sweet cafe in Mountgrove Road, said she has had to close her business for at least until after Christmas after the Finsbury Park flooding.
The water was up to her armpits as she scrambled around the basement kitchen trying to save what she could, but she had to abandon it when the fridge started floating towards her.
“It was totally surreal,” she said. “My job for the next six months is to be an expert in insurance paperwork and claims.
“I feel like we are the lucky ones though. At least we had a home to go back to.”
Thousands of Islington homes were left without power or water for about 24 hours on October 8.
Steve Spencer, Thames Water’s chief operating officer, said : “We understand the devastation caused to residents affected by the burst.
“Our main priority is to make sure their lives get back to normal as soon as possible.
“We’re keen to understand why this particular water pipe failed in the way it did and welcomed the opportunity to discuss what happened and to explain what we’re doing to put things right.”
He added that they are spending more than £1million a day on maintaining the network.