Non-bill payers given water compensation

Franklaw Water Treatment plant on Catterall Lane, Garstang
Franklaw Water Treatment plant on Catterall Lane, Garstang

United Utilities has defended its decision to send cryptosporidium compensation to people who have not paid their water bills.

The arrangement came to light after readers contacted us to say some Lancashire residents have bragged they had not paid their bill, but still received a compensation cheque of up to £60 for the contamination problem in August.

Thousands of customers were affected when traces of the bug cryptosporidium were found in the water supply sparking a month long boil water notice.

All affected customers received compensation but critics have hit out the way those in arrears were paid calling the payment “a gift for non payment.” They say a credit should have been made against the amount owed instead.

A spokesman for United Utilities defended the move, saying: “We said from the beginning that every customer affected by the boil water notice would receive compensation.

“Our approach - to send a cheque - was agreed with, and endorsed by, the Consumer Council for Water.

“The fact remains that some customers - even those who owe us money - were inconvenienced and incurred additional costs such as electricity.

“What would be unfair, is for us to penalise people who are struggling on tight budgets or low incomes.”

Unlike other services, United Utilities are not permitted to cut water off from a property if payment is not made. Instead legal action is taken to recoup the money.

Preston MP Mark Hendrick said: “There were other mechanisms of compensation, and giving credit to people in arrears would go a long way to clearing what is owed. This isn’t an issue of fairness, I think that’s an excuse. Issuing cheques to everyone is an easy way for United Utilities to deal with it, and other mechanisms have been overlooked.”

The contamination affected 300,000 homes in Lancashire served by the Franklaw treatment plant near Garstang, and cost United Utilities a total of £25m in compensation and costs.