Singer and activist Bob Geldof has backed a non-payment campaign against Southern Water initiated by four residents of Whitstable in Kent.
The residents are refusing to pay their water bills after the company was fined a record £90m in July for dumping raw sewerage into the sea around Whitstable and the Hampshire Coast.
Kent Online quoted Geldof as saying: “Don’t pay your water bills to Southern Water, they can f**k off.
“I can’t understand why this giant utility company can’t be held to account.
“Why aren’t the board liable? Why aren’t they going to jail?
“I really don’t understand it. They are doing vile harm to adults and children who go swimming, and vile harm to livelihoods.
“How are they allowed to do this?
“I’m absolutely certain if there was a one-year minimum custodial sentence for them, then it would stop.
“God bless those people of Whitstable. I’m straight there to join them, in fact I’ll join them immediately.”
Conservative councillor Ashley Clarke is among those refusing the pay the water bill.
He wrote to the company: “I have no intention of contributing to the £90m fine recently imposed on that company for criminal activity.
“Throughout the summer Southern Water has continued to send my untreated sewerage, along with that of other local people, directly into the sea, which I use on a daily basis to swim from April to October.
“I find the thought of swimming in a mixture of local sewerage and seawater totally abhorrent and not something that I should be charged for. If I paid someone to clear out my garage and take rubbish away to the tip but instead they fly-tipped it into the countryside, I would be upset. Canterbury city council prosecutes offenders for that type of activity.
“Yet Southern Water continues to fly-tip sewage into my bathing water with impunity.”
However Rosie Fish, mortgage expert at broker and lender Habito, has warned that the non-paying of water bills could have an adverse impact on mortgage applicants’ credit scores.
She said: “It’s unlikely that Bob Geldof needs a mortgage, so it’s probably less important to him if he has a good credit score. Unfortunately for the majority of homeowners, or would-be homeowners, racking up unpaid utility bills is going to show on your credit score as a ‘default’ of a debt.
“Your credit score is a personal score to you, which reflects your borrowing habits. Put simply – the better you are at paying off your credit commitments, the higher you’ll score. Your score can not only affect the cost of the loans you are offered, but also if you’ll be approved at all.
“Unless you put the account back into good standing, having an unpaid debt like a utility bill, even if you’re withholding it for moral reasons as opposed to being unable to afford it, will stay on your credit file for 6 years. This could affect your mortgage eligibility. This is because lenders perform affordability assessments on all applicants and any history of credit issues – which this would be automatically considered – is a red flag.
“This could present a greater challenge to getting approved for a mortgage. For people with lower credit scores, there are some specialist lenders who can help, as they deal specifically with more complex applications, though they will charge higher interest rates.”
She added: “If you’re in the Kent region, I’d say to homeowners that before joining this payment boycott, be aware of the potential credit score pitfall. Regardless of their intentions, missing a utility payment could have longer-term consequences on their finances that they may not be anticipating.
“Generally, we recommend that anyone thinking of applying for a mortgage should check their credit score with the different credit agencies in the run up to any house buying search. This way, if they find they have a lower score than they were expecting, they can work towards improving it, before applying.”