Battling Brits Tony and Christine Cooke have been left high and dry by yet another Portuguese court in their long-running battle with Loulé water authority Infralobo.
After nearly eight months fighting a case that they believe “should be cut and dried in any developed country”, the couple has come to the dismal conclusion that the Portuguese judicial system “is totally useless, or even worse, bows to the powers that be”.
This was the third time the Cookes, backed by other residents with properties in the urbanisations of Vale de Garrão, Quinta Jacinta and Vilas Alvas, had been to a local court in a bid to decry the infamous ‘bed tax’ charged by Infralobo to boost residents’ water bills.
In the thick of the fight, the tax was putting as much as an extra €125 on monthly bills.
In May, new tariffs were introduced that reduced the tax, but by then the Cookes were months into their Churchillian stand, surviving on no water at all after being disconnected by Infralobo in January.
As the Resident has repeatedly explained, the Cookes never stopped paying for the water they used. They simply objected to the bed tax, and have been pilloried by their supplier which actually removed from its own website a section that began “water is vital for life…” shortly after the Cooke’s fight began being noticed by local media.
Questions to Infralobo have invariably elicited the response that it is acting within the law.
In a “Right to Reply” printed in January, the company told us that its bed tax had been “approved by the competent authorities in this matter”.
But the tortuous issue has been without doubt hardest on the Cookes, who have been the only full-time residents living without water – now in the hottest part of the summer.
Today, the couple told us, they have hit rock bottom.
“We have been through hell and back in the last few months”, said wife Christine.
Tony, 77, is suffering from stress-related disorders and this latest setback has forced them to reconsider.
“We’re ready to pay up”, Christine explained. “We know we are right, as otherwise any one of the courts would have come to a decision. The fact that they haven’t speaks volumes.
“But we’re now faced with increasing fire risks as we have no water to dampen anything down, and our gas tank is so vulnerable in this hot weather that Repsol says it will have to empty it. Living without water is bad enough, but without gas as well. We just can’t do it”.
While other residents are talking about “a new strategy”, the Cookes are just hoping that by paying up their nightmare will finally end – no matter how unjustly they feel they have been treated.
Meantime, our own questions sent to Infralobo on Tuesday remain unanswered: the gist of them being that the supply of water is a basic human right, as set out in the Right to Water Act passed by the United Nations in 2010 – so why has this monopoly on water supplies in Loulé sought to see to it so effectively that one expatriate couple of retirees is left so brutally and literally high and dry?