Stream of water bills for centuries-old Kilmonivaig Church still flowing

John Fotheringham, outside Kilmonivaig Church and hall, where he says the situation over water bills is ridiculous IF F49 John Fotheringham church row

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Scottish Water subsidiary Business Stream says it has apologised for an administrative error that has seen a bill issued for nearly £900 for a water supply for a Lochaber church that has never had so much as a single tap in the two centuries since it was built.

Over two years ago, the Lochaber Times documented church treasurer John Fotheringham’s long-running battle with Business Stream after it issued the church trustees with  a torrent of water bills for a non-existent water supply.

Then, in the February of 2018, Business Stream relented and confirmed the Supply Point Identification Number (SPID) assigned to Kilmonivaig Church, had now been removed.

But Mr Fotheringham said he has now had to take to his keyboard once again, after last week receiving a water bill back-date for three years for just over £867 for the same non-existent water supply.

Quizzed on the latest unwelcome invoice, Business Stream Customer Services Director, Jo Mayes, told us: ‘As soon as we were made aware of this issue we very quickly identified that it was caused by an administrative error.

‘We contacted Mr Fotheringham in a matter of hours to apologise for any inconvenience caused and to confirm that there is no balance outstanding.’

Asked if he was happy with the way the matter had been resolved,  Mr Fotheringham told us: ‘They may hope it is going away, but I am writing to Kate Forbes [local MSP] because there is an important principle here. This is a publicly-owned company that has tried to persuade a tiny Highland charity to pay £867.71 in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic emergency for a service it was impossible to provide.

‘They were well aware that Kilmonivaig Parish Church building does not and has never had, water, toilet, or sewerage services, since it was built 208 years ago, and the charity which runs both the church and hall applies for and is granted exemption on an annual basis.

‘To arbitrarily try and charge the church from 2017 is a nonsense, particularly after we were told the church had been de-registered after the last shambles, and another waste of my time, so you might understand why happy is not a word I would use.

‘I just wonder how many others will be receiving similarly silly bills.’