Whitstable’s people are refusing to pay water bills over sewage crisis – will you?

Protest: people in Whitstable demonstrated against Southern Water’s pollution of the coastline in October.

How wonderful to see the exercise of people power!

Residents of Whitstable, in Kent, are refusing to pay their water bills until the local privatised water company stops discharging sewage into the sea.

It seems they have a very good reason to withhold their cash, as Kent Online has reported claims that people had become ill after swimming in nearby coastal waters.

Local councillor Ashley Clark explained his reasons for holding back the cash in a letter to the company dumping the sewage, Southern Water. He wrote:

Southern Water has continued to send my untreated sewerage – along with that of other local people – directly into the sea which I use on a daily basis to swim from April to October.

I find the thought of swimming in a mixture of local sewerage and seawater totally abhorrent and not something that I should be charged for.

If I paid someone to clear out my garage and take rubbish away to the tip but instead they fly-tipped it into the countryside I would be upset. Canterbury City Council prosecutes offenders for that type of activity.

Yet Southern Water continues to fly-tip sewage into my bathing water with impunity and spend my contributions on both director’s bonus payments and shareholder dividends rather than treating sewerage which hitherto I have paid for.

Accordingly, I will not be paying the £158.63 claimed by Southern Water until such time as I am satisfied that all my payment is being used for the intended purpose and I am compensated for the days on which I was advised not to swim in the sea.

Others have reported their own reasons for withholding payment.

Water companies cannot cut off residents’ water supply if they do not receive payment – they are legally prohibited from doing so, although they can take payment defaulters to court for payment.

But they may find the courts unsympathetic at the moment, because water firms are legally required not to dump untreated sewage in the UK’s waterways and on the coasts. People are justified in their anger – and they’re not saying they’ll never pay their bills.

It seems a good tactic – possibly the best, as it hits the water firms where they are most likely to pay attention: the bank account.

So the operative question is this: are you willing to do the same?

Source: Whitstable residents refuse to pay Southern Water bills until discharging sewage into sea ends

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7 thoughts on “Whitstable’s people are refusing to pay water bills over sewage crisis – will you?

  1. SteveH

    Those on benefits will probably find that the water company will just take any outstanding payments via the DWP’s direct deductions process.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      It will be interesting to see whether that happens. What right does the government have to interfere in a dispute between a consumer and a supplier – on the side of the lawbreaker?

  2. Paul Billanie

    They are not allowed to cut off supply, although this isn’t supply but they still cannot stop the work. However if they really wanted to although it may take a few months perhaps they can apply for an attachment of earnings to get their money which is then inflated with court costs etc…they may even take it to the bulk claims and try using bailiffs as well. I know this from experience I have been having deductions for water and sewerage bills for many years as SteveH mentions although this can be applied to anyone not just those on benefits…if it wasn’t for the deductions I also would withdraw payment.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      You could apply to the courts on the grounds that you are withholding your payments because the water company is committing a crime and you do not wish to be an accessory to that crime?

      1. Paul Billanie

        Sadly courts might rule in favour of the water company as technically the government have now made it ‘legal’. I fully agree it is horrendous and I dread to imagine what it is like for those living in those areas.

        I would also like to know where the investment has been…as it is privatized…into preventing this as there must have been some inkling that it was possible. With more and more homes built, I believe around 300,000 is a government target, that’s more input of waste add to that climate change and over the last few years heavier rains it is pretty much guaranteed to happen again. The ‘incremental’ changes are simply not good enough action is needed now or it could get far worse and end up costing more

      2. Mike Sivier Post author

        The courts may also accept an argument that, as up to half of our water bills are paid for the treatment of sewage, and the water companies aren’t fulfilling this part of their contract, people are justified in refusing to pay. It would be good to see the matter thrashed out in front of a judge.

        As for investment: it was stated when the utilities were privatised, back in the 1980s, that the privatised companies would use part of their profits to invest in modernisation. They didn’t. They reneged on it. It’s as simple as that.

Comments are closed.