SOME households in Basingstoke and Deane could be overpaying on their water bills because of a charge that should not be there.
Water companies could now face paying rebates to those affected, after Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council resolved to look into the issue.
Since 2000, water companies have only been allowed to charge householders for surface water drainage if rainwater from their properties drains into the public sewer.
But many households are paying around £23 a year for surface water drainage in error because the water actually drains into soakaways and is absorbed into the ground.
The issue was first highlighted in January when Overton borough councillor Ian Tilbury realised that residents of the new Foxdown development were incorrectly being billed.
Cllr Tilbury raised the matter at last Thursday’s borough full council meeting, putting forward a motion, that was seconded by Cllr Paul Harvey, for the matter to be investigated across the whole borough.
He said: “I thought there might still be a few people who had not claimed a rebate when it was first introduced back in 2000. I therefore suggested to residents that it might be worth checking their water bills.
“At this point, I was deluged with responses from around 70 residents who had been surprised to find they had been paying these charges unnecessarily since 2000.”
He added: “The most extreme example I have come across to date is a 1970s estate of 58 properties where Southern Water claim not a single household had realised they were eligible for a rebate in the last 14 years. Or to put it another way, those 58 households have needlessly paid Southern Water around £17,000.”
Cllr Tilbury asked Southern Water why the charge had been applied to new estates, such as Foxdown, and received a response to say they would improve their internal communication.
However, the company added in its response that paying rebates would increase average bills for all users by four per cent next year.
Cllr Tilbury said: “They are arguing that payment of a charge for a service that they do not provide and you cannot use is somehow fair.”
He added: “It now appears likely that not a single one of the 2,000 or so households in my ward should be paying this charge, which I suspect is probably the case in much of the borough.”
The motion passed by the council agrees that the relevant cabinet members will confirm with water companies that serve Basingstoke and Deane the postcodes of the areas entitled to a rebate, and to seek an agreement with these companies that all residents and properties affected in the future will be automatically informed and the charge removed.
The response to these actions and outcomes will be reported back to full council in October.
A spokesman for Southern Water said: “Our policy is consistent with other water companies’ and with Ofwat guidance.
“We make every effort to make customers aware that they may be entitled to a rebate.
“This includes information on bills, where our charges are explained. Information is also on our website.”