Here’s a selection of Whitstable residents’ letters to further demands for payment of Southern Water’s waste water bills. The first is from Ashley Clark and the next two residents wanted only their first names to be published.
Managing Director South East Water Rocfort Road Snodland Kent ME6 5AH
12th December 2021
RE Account Number
I refer to your recent computer generated reminder for payment in the sum of £158.63 with notes on the rear intimating threats of court action etc in the event of non payment.
Clearly you appear ignorant of my letter to you of 2nd November 2021. You need to be fully aware of the facts here.
1. My water bill for water supplies by yourselves for the period April to October in the sum of £141.78 was paid promptly and in full in accordance with my customary practice. I have no dispute with you or your service. This was paid by cheque and my bank confirmed this on a recent statement.
2. The sum you now claim of £158.63 is in respect of monies that I allegedly owe to Southern Water.
3. Southern Water is an organisation with a criminal record having recently been fined some £90 million pounds by the Crown Court for the illicit dumping of raw sewage into the sea on frequent occasions.
4. I swim in the sea between April and October and have done this on a regular basis since my childhood.
5. I pay Southern water on the basis that they will act responsibly and treat all waste water before eventual discharge. This has not been taking place and it would appear that every time we get rainfall that is used as an excuse to fly tip more sewage into the sea where I swim.
6. On several occasions throughout the period in question warnings have been made by my local authority telling me not to swim.
7. Some 30 years ago I wrote to Southern Water highlighting the issue yet after 30 years I note no improvement. Indeed recent press reports that I have no reason to doubt tell me that of the 5,517 discharge reports this year that Southern water is responsible for 35% of them. Any promises and claims by Southern Water to the effect that this money is required to put things right cannot be believed against a long history of failing to do this whist at the same time paying out millions in bonuses and share dividends.
8. Southern Water is no different from any other commercial organisation in that has no right to demand full payment for a service that has not been provided and in that sense any demand for payment in full is an unwarranted demand.
9. The making of an unwarranted demand with menaces ie the threat of unjustified court action and the use of a debt collection service is a criminal offence that comes under the auspices of s. 21 of the Theft Act 1968. I know that because in the past I have arrested people for that offence and put them before the courts. I have been before the Crown Court on many occasions but always as a witness and never like Southern Water, as a defendant.
10. Acting as a mere lackey for an organisation with a criminal history does nothing to enhance the reputation of South East Water.
11. Accordingly please desist from this unpleasant activity and note that I will entertain no further correspondence from yourselves on the issue.
12. If you send the debt collecting thugs around I will have no alternative but to call the police. I owe you nothing.
Ashley J Clark
Dear Charlotte Wesley,
Re Customer Reference numberxxx
Thank you very much for your letter of 30 November, and phone calls which I was unable to take last week.
At this point I feel there is little to add to my previous letter to you, other than to reiterate that I cannot see a justification for customers being expected to pay for a service which they do not receive. In fact, without a major change, we would actually be paying to pollute the seas on which the planet’s life depends with own waste. Unsurprisingly, many people of course find this an untenable idea.
I am of course completely prepared to give the question of payment further consideration in the event of evidence of such major change being provided, and I look forward to hearing details of Southern Water’s progress on the issue.
All best wishes for the festive season.
Dear Mr Severn,
Thank you for your response however I don’t seem to recall a 133-hour storm on the Isle of Wight last month (among others)? Do you have the meteorological charts to back this up? If so, please can you furnish me with this evidence.
In regards to your statement: “No dividends have been paid since 2016-17” I wish to refer you to an article by Ben Lawrence / Sunday August 19 2018, 12.01am, The Sunday Times that states:
“Southern Water has handed a big dividend to its owners, just as the industry’s regulator threatens to clamp down on payouts. The company, which supplies 2.5m people in Kent, Sussex, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, paid £117.3m in dividends in its latest financial year, newly released accounts disclose — 10% up on the previous year.”
In addition, your customers (now 4.2million) such as myself were supposed to receive £61 off their bills – £17 in 2020-21 and £11 in each of the following four years (ending 2025) following an imposed £126m fine by Ofwat in 2019 over “shocking” failures at the company’s sewage treatment sites that polluted rivers and beaches in southern England. Yet here we are in 2021, you’ve received a further fine of £92m for the same atrocious behaviour and my bills have done nothing but increase!?!
I look forward to your response on the above matters.
More News on the Sewage Scandal:
RE SOUTHERN WATER: Julie Wassmer wrote – Our payment boycott has now made page 3 of The Times! Quote: Ashley J Clark “responded last week to a South East Water with a letter accusing it of being “a mere lackey for an organisation (Southern Water) with a criminal history.” He wrote: “the making of an unwarranted demand with menaces ie a threat of unjustified court action and the use of the debt collection service, is a criminal offence that comes under the auspices of Section 21 of the Theft Act 1968. I know that because in the past I have arrested people for that offence and put them before the courts. I have been before the Crown Court on many occasions but always as a witness and never, like Southern Water, as a defendant. if you send the debt collecting thugs around I will have no alternative but to call the police. I owe you nothing.” … Dozens of other residents had also withheld bill payments over the sewage spills. They include Julie Wassmer, a Whitstable-based author, who received a letter from a Southern Water customer relations manager saying she was “truly sorry” to read of her frustrations over the spills and did understand how angry she must be but non-payment could lead to “collections activity”. Wassmer said that the Consumer Rights Act 2015 said that “services must be provided with reasonable care and skill” but Southern Water had “clearly not done so when dealing with local wastewater though it has seen fit to reward itself and still claims payment from its customers.” NB Importantly, the Times Environment Editor quoted Southern Water as telling him: “We have had direct contact from the very small number of customers who have informed us that they will not pay the Southern Water section of their water bill in total the number of customers we have been contacted by remains in single digits.” However, one of our MANY local Whitstable boycotters was actually TOLD by a representative of South East Water (the company in charge of payment collection) right at the beginning, even before Bob Geldof’s support, as follows: “She said that we were not the only ones taking this action and when I pressed her on how many she wouldn’t give me a figure but said it was in the hundreds! I was expecting some kind of threat or demands, but simply got a polite acknowledgement of our refusal to pay them.” So, I think it’s safe to say Southern Water are being very disingenuous with their comments to the Times about the numbers of residents involved in this payment boycott because they absolutely must have been told by South East Water how many are involved.
Whitstable Views: How You Can Help
- Make sure you share and like our articles on Facebook and Twitter, and whatever other social-media platforms you use.
- Follow the site to get regular updates about new articles when they appear. Press the “Follow” icon in the bottom right hand corner of your screen and that will take you to the option to sign up. (It disappears as you move the text down, then reappears as you move it back up again!)
- Leave comments on the site rather than on Facebook. Let’s get a debate going. All of our contributors are willing to engage with you if you leave a comment.
- To all writers out there, we would LOVE you to make a contribution. Read our submissions page for details on how to go about that: https://whitstableviews.com/submissions/
- Finally you can donate. As little as £1 would help. Details on the donations page here: https://whitstableviews.com/donate/