It is a partial victory, but by no means an end to a wrangle that has inflamed expat homeowners in Loulé to the point where some have taken an extraordinary stand.
Several remain without water on three urbanisations after a four-month stand-off, and still they have no way of knowing when, or even if, supplies will be turned back on.
But the good news is that the principle they have all been fighting for appears to have won the day.
Without any announcement or fanfare, water supplier Infralobo sent out monthly bills for April earlier this month at vastly reduced rates.
The reviled bed tax that had been adding up to €125 a month onto people’s bills – irrespective of whether or not they even turned on a tap – has suddenly been decimated to the point that a four-bedroom house is now paying just €16 a month.
“I suppose we should all be celebrating”, battling householder Chris Diacon told us. “It would appear that we have been successful in a major part of our campaign: water charges have been reduced by approximately 15%, sewage charges are now based on water consumption, and while the dreaded bed tax has not completely disappeared, it has been dramatically reduced”.
But what has been “quite staggering”, says Diacon, is the way these invoices “just turned up” at homes in Quinta Jacinta, Vale do Garrão and Vilas Alvas.
“There has been no communication or any form of explanation from Infralobo. They simply arrived”, he said.
“I would conclude from this that this is a victory for us and a defeat for them, and that the lack of communication is basically them sulking”.
“Arrogant and ignorant” is how one of the veterans in this hard-fought campaign has dubbed Infralobo’s latest stance, but retired accountant Tony Cooke, 77, maintains that “the fact that they have reduced their tariffs is a big plus” as it adds to the legal case taken out by Cooke and a number of others which is now being deliberated by the Arbitrations Court in Faro.
The residents’ lawyer Campos Rodrigues said when he filed the case that the residents’ claim rests on the fact that not only are there no laws to cover the exorbitant bed tax that Infralobo was charging, but that “existing laws are very clear that what they are doing is totally forbidden”.
For households like the Cookes – where Tony and wife Christine have been living without running water since January, hopes now lie with the decision by the Arbitrations Court.
“We are hoping against hope for a positive decision that will see our water reconnected and all the bogus charges thrown out”, said Tony.
“We’re obviously delighted that the bed tax as it was when we started this fight has been done away with, but I have to say it is quite infuriating that all the spineless individuals who never joined in with the action group but just paid up, refusing to take a stand, will now be reaping the benefits as well”.
As soon as we hear the results of the Arbitrations Court decision, we will be updating this story.
As Tony Cooke stressed, if the residents ‘win’ it will be a major coup. But if they don’t, they plan to “let rip” with everything they feel about being caught between a rock and a hard place by a supply monopoly that they never signed up for and which has been “ruthlessly playing with people’s lives” (click here).