Seaside landladies fret as taps flow

THE DELICATE relationship between landladies and their guests is now troubled by a new irritant - the compulsory water meter. Worried landladies are watching their profits go down the drain while guests pamper themselves in deep baths and flush toilets with freedom.

The problem has reached crisis point in the West Country where water tariffs have risen to pay for the clean up of the coast. Boarding houses have had to accept water meters because they are small businesses while neighbours who may have their houses in multiple occupation are overlooked.

Pat Dormer-Carter, who is selling her boarding house in Exmouth, Devon, because the business has become so difficult, said: 'Listening to the guests having a bath at night and then a shower again in the morning is hard for a proprietor who is charging only pounds 12.50 for bed and breakfast. That is the average rate, and heavy use of water takes away an appreciable part of the profit. It is one of the extra costs that is pushing the small person out of the tourist business.'

Mrs Dormer-Carter has a Victorian house with six paying bedrooms in an attractive part of Exmouth. In the last two and a half years several boarding houses on her street have gone out of business.

'Tourism in the West Country has been knocked hard. People aren't coming for such long stays any more. The Tourist Board is encouraging us to go en suite to compete with the continentals but it just means people use more water,' said Mrs Dormer-Carter.

New regulations have made the boarding house business more competitive than ever. Now any householder can take up to six paying guests without registering as a business, and so long as registration is avoided there is no need to have a water meter or comply with expensive fire regulations.

'We can't put prices up to pay for the extra cost of water. The business is too competitive. The water company is profiteering from privatisation - it is one of the worst things that has happened to this country. Soon there won't be a proper tourist industry left. Water meters are the last straw,' said Mrs Dormer-Carter.

South West Water, which supplies water and sewage disposal in Devon and Cornwall, is committed to spending pounds 900m on new plants to treat sewage which is at present discharged into the sea in raw form. Facilities now being built in Lyme Regis (West Dorset), Exmouth, Penzance, St Ives, Ilfracombe and 28 other locations will be finished by 1995. Larger schemes in Plymouth, Torbay and the Torridge estuary will take longer.

As a result of these schemes charges to customers have increased dramatically - more than doubling since privatisation. However South West Water also pays its investors a large dividend - larger than any other water company. This policy has led to its share price doubling since privatisation.

Neil Fishpool, director of the Campaign for Water Justice, said: 'South West Water is over-charging its customers in order to pay an excessive dividend and Ofwat, the water watchdog, has failed to do anything to control it. The company has invested pounds 26m in a Texas credit listing company and millions more on other diversification. Instead of taking risks with money raised in the South West it should be keeping costs down and giving its customers better value.'

Eileen Wragg, another Exmouth landlady who has stopped trading, said: 'Our water bill came to pounds 440 a year - twice that of neighbors who did not have a meter even though they had more people in their household. The neighbours can use as much water as they like - if they want to they can hose down the back lane and it won't cost them any more. But we have to worry every time we flush the toilet.'

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Office and Customer Services Manager

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small but very busy (and f...

Recruitment Genius: Portfolio Administrator

£14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company has become known a...

Recruitment Genius: Mechanical and Electrical Engineer - Midlands

£35000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of refrig...

Recruitment Genius: Sales / Account Manager

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales / Account Manager is re...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot