Water company offers charities £100,000 cash after taps ran dry

CONTRIBUTION Tunbridge Wells MP Greg Clark worked with South East Water on the initiative

CHARITIES are to be handed payments totalling £100,000 by South East Water.

The money comes in the form of a ‘contribution to the community’ reflecting the disruption and distress caused in the ten-day lead up to Christmas when the supply network broke down.

From today (February 22), registered charities can submit a request for cash up to £5,000 as part of a one-off initiative brought about by Tunbridge Wells MP Greg Clark.

It follows his success in gaining £250 payments for most households hit by the water shortage. The average annual bill from South East Water is £220 a year.

During an earlier debate in Parliament on the issue, Mr Clark had argued that the supplier should make an additional contribution to the community.

In his regular column published today in the Times (page 14) he says: “I have been having constructive discussions with South East Water and I am pleased to be able to announce that the company has agreed to make a donation of £100,000 to charities in our local area.”

Good causes can apply for the cash through a special website set up by the company. All they need do is provide their name, a charity registration number and a 100-word message on why they need the money. Closing date is March 8, 2023. The charities must be based within Mr Clark’s constituency.

Mr Clark adds: “£100,000 will be a welcome boost to local good causes at a difficult time for many of them and the people they help”.

Meanwhile, in the neighbouring Wealden constituency, MP Nus Ghani has been fighting for compensation for her constituents and criticised the water company for ‘spreading misinformation’ about a ‘financial contribution’ which was not linked to water bills.

With some residents reporting not having received compensation, being told they were not eligible, or receiving less than households in the neighbouring area, Ms Ghani called South East Water directors to a meeting.

Local government officials from Wealden District Council, leader Cllr Ann Newton and chief executive Trevor Scott, also attended.

Thousands of households in Wealden were left without water for several days in December.

Ms Ghani said she had received extensive correspondence reporting lengthy outages in Crowborough, and requested a review of impacted postcodes.

South East Water told the meeting that compensation payments were decided according to length of disruption, and because Tunbridge Wells households were affected for longer, compensation levels were higher.

Ms Ghani also criticised the water company for ‘spreading misinformation’ by writing to constituents about a financial contribution to the community.

She said: “Some Wealden residents reported to have received communication from South East Water claiming that as a way of saying sorry to those who had minimal impact, a financial contribution would be made to the community, following agreement with local MPs.

“This meeting also served as an opportunity to correct the record and confirm that Nusrat was never involved in any such discussions nor did she give consent to such compensation, and this correspondence was therefore misleading.”

Ms Ghani continued: “South East Water have failed Wealden residents in the run up to Christmas when water supply was disrupted for several days, and they are failing them now by overcomplicating the compensation system and spreading misinformation.

“I had many exchanges with the Chief Executive of South East Water every day of the December outage, but have not been involved in any discussions regarding community contributions and I continue to push for fair and timely compensation to all households that were affected.

“I have requested that South East Water correct the misleading statement that has been shared with their customers and I insisted that any community contributions must be made in addition to all individual compensation payments, and must be discussed with the District Council, to ensure the funds are used effectively.”

She confirmed nearly £1m worth of compensation payments had been made to constituents, but said she hoped the postcode review would see more Wealden customers receive compensation.

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