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Water Bills Boycott Goes National

By Danny Halpin

The Independent - Friday 9 June

A growing number of water customers are withholding payment of their bills until they are satisfied the pollution is being dealt with.

People across England are refusing to pay their wastewater bills because of anger over sewage pollution, saying they should not pay for a service they do not receive.

Some have said they are prepared to go to court, but do not believe the water companies will take legal action.

Angler Matt Marlow, from Stockport, Greater Manchester. said he stopped paying his water bill entirely, to United Utilities, about six months ago, but is considering setting up a standing order of £1 “for their shareholders”.

He told the PA news agency: “That shows them that I’m not refusing to pay the bill, I’m just withholding payments until I’m happy with what they’re telling me.

“Stop billing me for removing sewage and water from my house when you’re not treating it.

“You’re trying to charge me for something I’m not getting and I will not pay that until you stop polluting the rivers.”

Mr Marlow said United Utilities tried sending him £75 after he complained about sewage discharges, which he described as “hush money”.

United Utilities said the £75 compensation was not linked to his complaint but a delay in responding to him.

Customers of Wessex Water and Yorkshire Water have also said they are withholding payment of their wastewater bills while Julie Wassmer, a customer of Southern Water in Kent, has been refusing to pay since 2021.

Individuals living on the south coast have created a website,, as a source of information for people who want to join the protest.

Katy Colley, who helped set up the website, said: “We’re not an organisation, we’re not advocating anything.

“We’re just saying that if you’re thinking about it, here’s some advice.”

One woman, a lawyer from the South West who did not want to be named, said she decided to withhold payment of her wastewater bill in March after seeing the chief executive of South West Water receive hundreds of thousands of pounds while teenagers were getting sick from wild swimming.

She said: “I swim in the rivers near me, so I looked at all of the pollution figures for those areas and the more information you get, the angrier it makes you feel, unfortunately.

“I haven’t personally been made sick but I always make sure I swim with my mouth shut.

“But I know that it’s a regular occurrence, particularly for the teenagers who swim in the rivers around here.

“You always see that they get sick after they’ve been swimming, it’s almost accepted.”

South West Water said it does not comment on individual customers but that they are free to contact the company for discussion.

Yorkshire Water said it has no records of customers refusing to pay bills.

Pennon Group, which owns South West Water, said on Thursday it will invest £750 million over the next two years in building reservoirs, reducing storm overflows and increasing renewable energy use.

Several water company chief executives, including at South West Water, Yorkshire Water and Thames Water, have offered to give up their bonuses this year in response to public anger over sewage.

Water UK said the industry will invest £10 billion in upgrading sewerage infrastructure, although customers will have to pay it off with increases in their bills for decades to come.

Mr Marlow said: “It’s shocking and that won’t happen. I will never pay towards this because they’ve already had the money.

“It’s offshore in foreign bank accounts and they’re all rubbing their hands together while we’re swimming in shit.”

Katy Taylor, Southern Water’s chief customer officer, said: “We are very conscious of the impact we have on our environment and we are investing £2 billion over five years – much of which will reduce the use of storm overflows, increase storage capacity and find ways to divert rain back to the environment naturally.

“We are trying to balance getting this done quickly with keeping customer bills as low as possible, and will only move at a pace that is acceptable to our communities.

“Customers’ bills also play a big part in helping us support our most vulnerable customers, who are going through tough times.

“This allows us to offer payment holidays, special tariffs, debt write-offs, bill

“We also offer support and extra help for those living with long-term illness, disability, the elderly and even new parents or parents with young children.”

United Utilities has been contacted for comment.

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