Downing Street has no plan to put a hosepipe ban in place in and around the prime minister’s residence, the Guardian can reveal, despite ministers calling for water companies to enforce restrictions.
Thames Water, which supplies No 10, said on Tuesday it would be putting water rationing in place in the coming weeks due to the extended dry conditions.
When asked whether hosepipes would still be used in the No 10 garden, or to wash the cars used to ferry its residents around, a spokesperson for the prime minister said a ban was not currently in place, though they added that the household was “taking steps to reduce the water used across the Downing Street site”. This did not include a hosepipe ban, though, they said.
Tim Farron, the Liberal Democrats’ spokesperson on environment and rural affairs, has called for Boris Johnson to set an example to the rest of the country by reducing his water usage and draining the swimming pool at his countryside residence, Chequers, which is also supplied by Thames Water.
The spokesperson declined to comment on whether the pool would be drained, saying it was a matter for the Chequers Trust. However, the prime minister is in control of matters at Chequers, and Margaret Thatcher famously stopped heating the pool during an energy crisis that took place when she was prime minister.
In a letter to Johnson, Farron said: “Your grace-and-favour mansion, Chequers, is located in an area which will be subject to a hosepipe ban. At this moment when millions of people across the country are making sacrifices, it is vital that you show leadership.
“While people all over the country were following the rules during Covid, you were partying in Downing Street. Now, while millions do the right thing and reduce their water use, can you confirm whether you will commit to doing so at Chequers? Will you rule out using hosepipes and stop refilling your private pool?
“It would stink of hypocrisy if you continue to maintain a private pool while gardens dry up, paddling pools remain empty and farmers are unable to water their crops.”
The whole country is readying for water restrictions during the record-breaking dry weather, with some areas not seeing significant rainfall since June.
Leaked documents seen by the Guardian this week show that water companies serving areas from Yorkshire to Dorset have applied for drought permits, which would allow them to put bans in place.
At the weekend, the environment secretary, George Eustice urged water companies to put restrictions in place.
The National Drought Group, which would decide whether there is an official drought, meets on Friday.