An offer of compensation of up to £60 for thousands of residents caught up in the ongoing water bug scare was today blasted as “woefully inadequate”.
United Utilities yesterday revealed each one of the 300,000 households affected by the boil water scare in Lancashire will get get between £50 and £60, depending on how long they have been without clean supplies.
MPs and residents have called the cheques being posted out today to many of the customers forced to boil water during the cryptosporidum contamination totally inadequate.
Business leaders too have urged United Utilities to think again about levels of compensation which have been doled out without consultation with the people who have not been able to drink tap water.
The domestic payouts will cost the company between £15m and £18m - even before it considers business claims.
And with companies expected to slap in bills totalling several million pounds for loss of business and the cost of bottled water for thousands of employees, the final figure is expected to be well over £20m.
I think the figure of £50 or £60 is woefully inadequate and in no way reflects the inconvenience people have been put through over the last month without drinking water.Fylde MP Mark Menzies
United Utilities chiefs have assured the public the cost of the month-long crypto scare will not be passed back to customers on their bills next year. It will be borne, they insist, by the company itself.
The level of compensation has been set in talks between the firm and the customer champion, the Consumer Council for Water.
The exact amount for each customer will depend on when the boil water notice was lifted in their postcode area.
But it could take until the end of the month for everyone to be paid.
Fylde MP Mark Menzies said: “I think the figure of £50 or £60 is woefully inadequate and in no way reflects the inconvenience people have been put through over the last month without drinking water.
“I am disappointed because when I met with United Utilities last week they said they were consulting on how much they should be giving consumers and were unable to even speculate on the figure.
“I urged them to be generous in their estimates as a goodwill gesture to their customers and now they are announcing this as a fait accompli. Despite assuring us MPs would be kept completely in the loop, we were only informed of this via email 25 minutes before it was announced.
“Many areas in Fylde are still without wholesome drinking water and have been extremely understanding, but for a company that made almost £700m in profit last year to offer this paltry sum is a disgrace.”
Blackpool resident Sean Thompson, of Claremont Road, said: “I have a disabled wife and a four-year-old child. We have had to spend around £20 a week on bottled water for almost four weeks.
“Our water bill is £33 a month and we have paid that throughout this period of having no clean drinking water and then buy bottled water on top so I don’t think £50 is enough.
“It has been extremely worrying, we still don’t know if we can use our water because we have had no letter telling us we are clear. We are not happy at all.”
Blackpool North and Cleveleys MP Paul Maynard said:” I will be asking the Parliamentary select committee for DEFRA to conduct a select committee inquiry in to the situation.
“We need to make sure lessons are learned should this every happen again.
“It has taken longer than anyone expected even United Utilities to resolve this, but it was vital to make sure that the water was clean before the boil water notice could be lifted.
“I am glad we have at last had some clarity of the nature of compensation. Many of my constituents wanted cash rather than a reduction in their bills and I am glad that UU has listened.
“Any constituents that don’t feel the compensation figure reflects the can contact the Consumer Council for Water, United Utilities or myself to be run through the system of compensation review.
“I want to make sure all businesses have equal opportunities to explain their losses to United Utilities.”
He said he was concerned about the length of time it has taken some areas of Blackpool, Fylde and Wyre to be given the all clear but said the complexity of the water supply system made it hard to be sure the water was clean.
He said those area which were supplied by the Warbreck facility alone were able to be dealt with earlier than those supplied by Weeton and Westby as it took longer to install the ultraviolet treatment rigs as there was more of an engineering challenge at those sites.”
Paul Foster, from the Blackpool base of the Federation of Small Businesses, said the crisis had hit Fylde hard because of the nature of the businesses on the holiday coast.
He said: “We appreciate that United Utilities advised that water could we drank if boiled then allowed to cool, but most businesses do not have the ability, resources or equipment on the scale required to do this, therefore for many purchasing bottled water was the only viable option, United Utilities should therefore reimburse all reasonable and receipted requests for bottled water from businesses who have a duty of care to their customers and employees.
“We are also keen to see compensation for loss of trade which for some of those in the visitor economy and supply chains has seen takings over the period fall markedly.”
“We trust that businesses applying for additional compensation will have this taken into account.”
All 300,000 customers were subject to boil water restrictions for at least three weeks after the parasite was found in water from the Franklaw Treatment Plant near Garstang.
The first areas, totalling 80,000 properties, had the warning lifted eight days ago. There have since been three more announcements, with more than two-thirds of homes now back to drinking clean water, leaving around 80,000 consumers most of them on the Fylde coast, still restricted.
The company expects to sound the all-clear for the vast majority of those by Sunday.
For all our previous coverage on the water contamination situation in Lancashire visit the links below: