Leader of the opposition, Godwin Friday, has called for the cancelation of water and electricity bills in the areas worst hit by the explosive eruption of La Soufriere volcano.
“VINLEC and CWSA have said they will suspend bills in communities in the worst hit areas. I want to urge them here to go further than a mere suspension of those bills and to urge them to cancel the bills for homeowners and businesses in the communities in the danger zone,” Friday told a New Democratic Party press conference last week.
“When are these people going to be able to get back on their feet to be able to continue to pay the bills that they normally would do?” he said.
He said that cancelling the bills will be “a gesture of faith and support”.
“Faith in the resilience of the people in the area. Give them the commitment that we are behind them as institutions in their recovery; and give them real material assistance in aiding in that recovery,” Friday said.
“So I want to urge VINLEC and the CWSA to go beyond the suspension, because suspension means you suspend it now and you start paying sometime later on, but to cancel those bills for those persons who are in those communities that are severely affected.”
Meanwhile, on Friday, Chief Executive Officer of VINLEC, Thornley Myers, said that VINLEC will suspend electricity bills for all customers north of Belle Isle and Mt Young — some 5,048 customers who have been affected by the eruption.
Myers told a press conference on Friday that these customers, generally speaking, in the Red zone and some in the Orange zone, most of them have not been using electricity, having evacuated.
“And those customers are having difficulties where they are, adjusting to life in their new ‘homes’…. It is not our intention to further burden them at this time with an electricity bill,” Myers said.
He said that while these people are not using electricity, there is a period of time during the billing cycle when they did.
“That is not our immediate concern now. Recognising the difficulties, recognising the situation, we have decided we are suspending bills to those customers,” Myers said.
Myers urged customers who are at home and consuming electricity to pay their bills, adding that a suspension is not in their interest.
“Because if we suspend electricity bills to you, when your meter is eventually read, it means that you are going to see an electricity bill with a significant amount of consumption at that point in time and, therefore, you will receive a relatively large electricity bill to reflect that consumption…” Myers said.
“We understand that these are difficult times for all Vincentians. But, there are others who are having it more difficult,” he said.