THE Federation of Small Businesses has called on United Utilities to honour its pledge to fully compensate firms hit by the Lancashire water crisis.
Companies are in the process of lodging claims with the region’s supplier for a refund of the cost of bottled water and for any loss of trade during the cryptosporidium scare which lasted more than a month.
But even before compensation payouts have begun there are fears they may not cover all the losses suffered by firms in the Preston, South Ribble, Chorley and Fylde Coast areas.
The small business lobby group, which has its base in Lancashire, claims it has evidence from its membership of the true impact of the water restrictions and they go well beyond the levels United Utilities has suggested it will compensate for.
The FSB is suggesting that where businesses can provide receipts for bottled water these should be refunded. And where businesses can make a case for damaged trade this should also be compensated.
Paul Foster, FSB Development Manager for Lancashire said: “Compensation of £50-60 per household for increased electricity costs to boil water and for the inconvenience factor seem adequate.
“United Utilities has suggested that it will not refund for the purchase of bottled water as it advised that the boiling process would mean this would be unnecessary.
“The reality of running a small business is that you cannot afford to have one member of staff taken away from their role to focus on boiling water, allowing it to chill and then putting it into some kind of storage container for others to use.
“Employers have a legal duty of care to provide drinkable water for their employees. Buying bottled water under these circumstances is the responsible and sensible option.
“The responsible and sensible option for United Utilities is to recognise this and refund businesses where receipts over the affected period can act as proof of purchase.
“United Utilities has not acknowledged that the negative publicity around the issue has affected visitor numbers (to the affected area).
“Our members have evidenced that visitor numbers are down and that this is attributable to the contaminated water issue.
“The contaminated water issue has come at the worst time of the year for those businesses.”
A spokesman for United Utilities said: “We understand that some businesses have experienced a loss of profits due to the boil water advice.
“We have said that we will consider any claims for loss of profits on a case by case basis if these businesses write to us with the evidence.”