Falkirk Council faces fight over bills for pipes

Cecil Meiklejohn
Cecil Meiklejohn

Home owners are threatening to refuse the council entry to their properties after receiving bills for thousands of pounds to upgrade their water supply.

Falkirk Council has decided to renew water pipes servicing homes in the Bainsford and Langlees areas, but while council tenants won’t pay a penny, those who own their homes face bills of £4000 each.

The proposal has caused outrage among the residents who question why the upgrade is necessary and the council’s motives for doing the work.

The council says the work is required as the pipes are 60-70 years old, burst regularly and are liable to crack or split on an “unacceptably regular basis”.

The works will also give each household its own water supply direct from the mains, meaning that if pipes do split, only a particular household will be affected rather than a number of them.

However, home owners are far from convinced about the need following a public meeting with council staff earlier this month.

James Stobbie (79), who owns his ex-council house in Morar Drive with wife Margaret, said he will refuse point blank to pay any bill and will prevent anyone from entering his property.

He said: “I will not pay a penny for this, no way. I’ve been living here for 49 years and haven’t had any problems and now they tell me I need to give them £4000 to upgrade the pipes.

“Even if I won the lottery I wouldn’t pay this. People are concerned the council is trying to pay for the works they’re doing through us home owners. I know some other older people who are really stressed out about it.”

Councillor Cecil Meiklejohn also has concerns about the council’s handling of the situation. She said the work was approved in February last year, but no timetable for a start date was given and that councillors were also only told in December the contract was approved to commence on Monday this week.

The councillor asked for a postponement to the start date at the public meeting, which was agreed by the council, and the matter was due to be discussed at a further public meeting last night (Wednesday).

Mrs Meiklejohn said: “There have been a number of concerns with regard to this work. A major project such as this requires a significant lead in time where there is consultation with the residents involved.

“In this case I believe the process should have been started with an information session detailing the difficulties for local residents a year ago, taking them along with the planning process of the works and the implications for both council and owner occupiers, but enabling them to have an input to the process.

“The timing of the estimates and information being sent out to the residents concerned was not good, as people were receiving letters advising them that they would have to pay up to £4000 toward the costs just before Christmas. The majority of the people involved are on low incomes and will not have the resources to cover their share of the costs.”

A spokesman for the council said the work was being carried out in accordance with the requirements of Scottish Water, which maintains the pipes.

He added: “If the pipe splits, all properties on the same section of the sub mains are without a water supply, which is highly inconvenient for residents. In terms of undertaking repairs it is becoming increasingly difficult to source the ‘collars’ required to repair the pipes.

“This, as well as the regularity that bursts occur, means the council has decided that it is necessary to rectify the issue by investing in new supplies to properties.”