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?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project and Quality Manager

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is an independent ...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Sales Executive - OTE £20,625

£14625 - £20625 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This role is for an enthusiasti...

Guru Careers: Financial Controller

£45 - £55k DOE: Guru Careers: A Financial Controller is required to join a suc...

Recruitment Genius: Fertility Nurse

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join the ho...

Day In a Page

Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'
Singapore's domestic workers routinely exploited and often abused in the service of rich nationals

Singapore's hidden secret of domestic worker abuse

David Cameron was shown the country's shiniest veneer on his tour. What he didn't see was the army of foreign women who are routinely exploited and often abused in the service of rich nationals
Showdown by Shirley Jackson: A previously unpublished short story from the queen of American Gothic

Showdown, by Shirley Jackson

A previously unpublished short story from the queen of American Gothic
10 best DSLRs

Be sharp! 10 best DSLRs

Up your photography game with a versatile, powerful machine
Solved after 200 years: the mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army

Solved after 200 years

The mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army
Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise

Robert Fisk on the Turkey conflict

Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise
Investigation into wreck of unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden

Sunken sub

Investigation underway into wreck of an unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden
Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes

Age of the selfie

Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes
Not so square: How BBC's Bloomsbury saga is sexing up the period drama

Not so square

How Virginia Woolf saga is sexing up the BBC period drama
Rio Olympics 2016: The seven teenagers still carrying a torch for our Games hopes

Still carrying the torch

The seven teenagers given our Olympic hopes
The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis, but history suggests otherwise

The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis...

...but history suggests otherwise
The bald truth: How one author's thinning hair made him a Wayne Rooney sympathiser

The bald truth

How thinning hair made me a Wayne Rooney sympathiser
Froome wins second Tour de France after triumphant ride into Paris with Team Sky

Tour de France 2015

Froome rides into Paris to win historic second Tour
Fifteen years ago, Concorde crashed, and a dream died. Today, the desire to travel faster than the speed of sound is growing once again

A new beginning for supersonic flight?

Concorde's successors are in the works 15 years on from the Paris crash