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Water company boss blames people working from home for hosepipe ban | UK News

A water company boss has blamed people working from home for a new hosepipe ban. 

South East Water will impose the first hosepipe ban of the summer from Monday, affecting more than two million homes and businesses across Kent and Sussex.

Its chief executive, David Hinton, said in a letter to customers that post-pandemic working from home was a “key factor” behind the ban, as it has “increased drinking water demand”.

File photo dated 23/08/22 of a woman watering her front garden, as a hosepipe ban is set to come in across Kent and Sussex due to a record demand for drinking water, South East Water bosses said.
A woman watering her front garden, as a hosepipe ban is set to come in across Kent and Sussex

He wrote: “Over the past three years the way in which drinking water is being used across the southeast has changed considerably.

“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.”

Mr Hinton also blamed low rainfall since April for leaving water butts empty, as well as pointing to a recent spell of hot weather which he claims led to a spike in demand for drinking water.

“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,” he said.

“Over the past week we have needed to find water to supply the equivalent of an additional four towns the size of Maidstone or Eastbourne every day.”

Greg Clark, the Conservative MP for Tunbridge Wells, told The Times: “Their only job is to deliver drinking water.

UK weather: The latest Sky News forecast

“But in my constituency, they have run out of water twice in six months – once just before Christmas when we had a cold snap, and now after a small and unexceptional heatwave.

“What they’re describing in terms of people working for home is by no means specific to this area.

“There has been for some time a tendency for people to work more from home. A water company should be able to predict and accommodate for this.”

A spokeswoman for the water regulator Ofwat told The Times: “South East Water must do better to predict and manage operational issues, help customers, and engage with them on what is happening and why.

Read more:
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“Customers will be asking why, for the second time in six months, their water company is being caught out by the weather.”

South East Water’s Head of Service Management, Steve Andrews, defended the ban, saying it was “introduced to ensure that we can deliver drinking water to all our customers consistently”.

He added: “We want to thank our customers for being mindful of their water use and remind them to continue to use water wisely over the coming weekend.”

Liberty Steel blames ‘unviable’ market as restructuring threatens hundreds of jobs | Business News

Liberty Steel UK has placed 440 jobs under threat through a series of actions to secure its future amid “unviable” market conditions.

The company said high energy costs had combined with other uncompetitive factors such as cheap imports and it was vital its operations were “refocused”.

Liberty, part of Sanjeev Gupta’s GFG Alliance, said its Newport and West Bromwich plants would be made idle under the changes.

They would also include operations at Rotherham being shifted towards premium products.

Liberty, which has been battling financing headwinds since the collapse of its biggest lender Greensill Capital in 2021, said the next phase of its restructuring programme would see workers affected offered an alternative to redundancy.

The proposed scheme aims to retain, redeploy and reskill affected employees and guarantees salary and outplacement opportunities.

Liberty said they could be redeployed within the business, on previous employment terms, when market conditions allowed.

‘Unviable market’

Its statement said: “Despite the injection of £200m of shareholder capital over the last two years, the production of some commodity grade products at Rotherham and downstream mills has become unviable in the short term due to high energy costs and imports from countries without the same environmental standards.

“Primary production through Rotherham’s lower carbon electric arc furnaces (EAFs) will be temporarily reduced while uncompetitive operating conditions prevail.”

The company said the measures would forge a “viable way forward” for the business and help safeguard jobs among its wider workforce of 1,900 permanent employees, rising up to 5,000 when contractors are included.

It made the announcement despite the promise of extra financial help for energy intensive industries, including steel, through a new discount scheme for businesses.

Sanjeev Gupta, boss of Liberty Steel, speaks to Sky News 1/4/21
Sanjeev Gupta

Jeffrey Kabel, chief transformation officer for Liberty Steel Group, said: “Refocusing our operations will set the right platform for Liberty Steel UK’s high-quality manufacturing businesses to adapt quickly to challenging market realities.”

He added: “Liberty’s shareholder Sanjeev Gupta has supported the business through a very difficult period and remains committed to the workforce here in the UK and ensuring our lower carbon operations help deliver a sustainable, decarbonised UK steel industry.”

‘Change in plans is devastating’

Alun Davies, national officer of steelworkers union Community, responded: “Since the collapse of Greensill Capital, the trade unions have supported the company because we believed that delivering the company’s business plans, which were audited and backed by the unions’ independent experts, was the best route to safeguard jobs and the future of all the businesses.

“However, the plans we reviewed were based on substantial investment and ramping up production, including at Liberty Steel Newport, and did not include the ‘idling’ of any sites.

“These are challenging times for all steelmakers but the company’s decision to change their plans, on which we based our support, and announce a strategy seemingly based on capacity cuts and redundancies is devastating.”

The government pledged continued support for the sector in its response, but Gareth Stace, head of industry body UK Steel, said: “High energy prices have played an important role in the decisions announced today, with long-standing uncompetitive electricity prices having constrained UK investment and steel production for some time.

“This highlights again the need for government to fully address the UK’s structurally high industrial energy prices, looking beyond the important announcements made regarding the energy bills discount scheme earlier this week.

“It is crucial we also now see the development of a long-term decarbonisation plan for the sector, ultimately ensuring that the UK can be seen as an attractive place to invest in steel production.”

Downing Street said reports of potential job losses at the firm were “concerning” but that ministers would continue to offer “extensive support” to the sector.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “Obviously it will be concerning for workers at Liberty Steel. We are committed to ensuring a sustainable future for the UK steel sector. We want to work closely with the industry to achieve this.”

UK accuses Russia of ‘peddling false claims’ after Moscow blames Royal Navy for Nord Stream pipeline blasts | World News

Britain has denied Russian claims that Royal Navy personnel blew up the Nord Stream gas pipelines last month, saying the story is “invented”.

A Ministry of Defence tweet said: “To detract from their disastrous handling of the illegal invasion of Ukraine, the Russian Ministry of Defence is resorting to peddling false claims of an epic scale.

“This invented story says more about arguments going on inside the Russian government than it does about the West.”

The 760-mile pipelines run from Russia to Germany, via the Baltic Sea, at a depth as low as 110 metres.

They were the most important supply route for Russian gas supplies to Europe, with a joint annual capacity of 110 billion cubic metres – more than half of Russia’s normal gas export volume.

Russia suspends grain export deal – live updates

But Russia cut off supply via Nord Stream 1 at the end of August, and Nord Stream 2 never entered service, as Germany paused its certification process shortly before Russia invaded Ukraine in February.

On 26 September, the pipelines registered a sharp drop in pressure and seismologists detected explosions before four leaks were recorded.

Russia said on Saturday: “According to available information, representatives of this unit of the British Navy took part in the planning, provision and implementation of a terrorist attack in the Baltic Sea on 26 September this year – blowing up the Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2 gas pipelines.”

It did not share any evidence to back up its claims.

Map showing North Sea gas network

Russia was initially blamed for sabotaging the pipelines as part of its efforts to deprive Europe of energy, but it dismissed these claims as “stupid”, instead blaming the US.

The US destroyed the pipelines, so it could sell more liquefied natural gas to Europe, Russia said – a claim denied by the US.

Sweden and Denmark concluded the leaks were caused by explosions, but did not say who might be responsible.

Swedish prosecutor Mats Ljungqvist called on Friday for a “supplementary crime scene investigation” at the site, adding: “It is important both for the preliminary investigation and for the various collaborations we have that we now get to work in peace and quiet.”

Read more:
What we know about the Nord Stream gas leaks and who was behind them
Fourth leak revealed on Nord Stream pipelines as Russia denies sabotage

Meanwhile, Russia has also claimed “British specialists” directed Ukrainian drone strikes on ships in the Black Sea Fleet in the Crimean city of Sevastopol early on Saturday.

Russia’s defence ministry said: “Nine unmanned aerial vehicles and seven autonomous marine drones were involved in the attack.

“The preparation of this terrorist act and the training of servicemen of the Ukrainian 73rd Special Center for Naval Operations were carried out under the guidance of British specialists located in the town of Ochakiv.”