Mismanagement Means Water Charge Rises ‘For Many Years’
If you pay for water from the Council, your bill is going up by 12%. And the Council Chairman says your payments could rise again “for many years to come” to rectify the authority’s mistakes of the past.
On Tuesday, councillors voted to increase water supply charges by 12% and sewage rates by 5%.
Amanda Martin said there was “no option” but to raise prices in order to start “banking some money” and avoid drawing on reserves.
The new rates will mean an additional £43.40 on residents’ bills although there will be a lower rate for single-occupancy homes.
It follows the revelation that the cost of running the desalination plant was £100,000 over budget last year.
That means there’s only £380,000 left in the water account, which can’t be subsidised by the council taxpayer.
Senior Manager for Infrastructure Craig Dryden told councillors the extra costs were due to silt and pyrite contamination in the boreholes feeding the plant.
It was only switched on in 2013 at a cost of £500,000, which was paid for by Defra
Craig said at times over the summer, it was costing £20,000 a month in new filters.
The Council introduced a hosepipe ban for residential properties in August to save water.
But St Agnes councillor Richard McCarthy felt the blame lay closer to home, with previous administrations.
He said the Council’s policy over the last 20 years was to “keep people sweet by keeping prices artificially low.”
Richard told members that “when the pipework collapses in town…when raw sewage isn’t processed and screened” then “the chickens are coming home to roost” because “next to nothing” has gone into reserves.
He also felt that a 12% increase was “not fair” suggesting 8% would be easier for residents to bear in a single year.
Richard was the only councillor to vote against the increase.
Cllr Robert Dorrien Smith agreed, saying the authority was now faced with “paying the price for historic mistakes and mismanagement.”
But Bryher councillor Marian Bennett felt it was the right time “psychologically” for the increase, because people were now more aware of the complexities and risks of supplying water, following the recent Defra consultation across the islands.
She said “it’s no good delaying it – we have to do it now.”
The council will also be looking at the feasibility of installing water meters.
Craig said there wasn’t enough money to fund the £300 cost of these for residential properties at the moment, but all new commercial connections will need to pay the fee for a meter.