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28 March 2007

Businesses told their water bills must be paid - Buchan Observer

by the Buchan Observer

Publican demands recalibration of meters BUSINESSES affected by increased charges from Scottish Water have been told that they must pay up.

There are currently 34 businesses in the Peterhead area who have made it known that they have received greatly increased water bills in recent months.

Some of them gathered in the town's Palace Hotel last week with representatives of Scottish Water to try and resolve the issue.

But the local business people were left disappointed after Scottish Water insisted that their charges stood.

Around a dozen firms put their case to Gordon Todd of Scottish Water Business Stream including publican Raymond Matthew, who received a bill from Scottish Water amounting to over £1,300 compared to his usual bills of around £300 per quarter.

Mr Matthew, who chaired the meeting, said: "They are adamant that we have to pay." Scottish Water say that the anomalies occurred when water meters in the area were either misread or not read at all over a number of months by contractor H2O.

Two rogue meter readers are said to be to blame, one of which has left the company and the other has been sacked. Scottish Water claim that the bills customers are receiving now are accurate as the charges have simply caught up.

A spokesman for Scottish Water said:

"We are willing to work with the businesses affected but the water has been used and must be paid for."

But Mr Matthew is angry that Scottish Water representatives could not give him an answer when he asked when the meter readings had been re-checked by Scottish Water.

Mr Matthew said:

"I asked them when they last recalibrated the meter readings and they couldn't tell me.

"There is no possible way that they can tell us we have to pay if the meters have not been recalibrated."

Local MSP Stewart Stevenson was unable to make the meeting but in a statement he said:

"Incredibly, after all this time and investigation, Scottish Water are still unable to say whether the meters in question were read incorrectly or not read at all.

"I received an update in which Scottish Water claimed procedures have now been tightened up and lessons learned from this episode.

"It is therefore particularly concerning to learn that more local businesses have been affected."

Mr Stevenson encouraged any businesses that have been affected by the issue to contact his office so he could log their case with the water ombudsman.

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