Thousands of people could be eligible for a rebate on their water bills due to a charging oversight at Anglian Water which goes back decades.

St Neots town councillor, Colin Maslen, highlighted the issue, originally featured on the Rip Off Britain programme, in the latest edition of the Eaton Socon Matters leaflet delivered to homes in the area. Within days of publication, 30 people contacted him and fellow councillor Derek Giles to say they had already claimed rebates of up to £100 from the company, which serves 4.5 million homes in the region.

The issue has arisen because Anglian Water have been charging some customers for rain/storm water disposal when they shouldn't have been.

"It transpires that if your rain water goes into a soak-away, and for most houses built before 1994, it does, then you shouldn't be paying for rain/storm water disposal, but they have been charging for 'handling' this water, explained Cllr Maslen.

Cllr Maslen contacted Anglian Water who told him that anyone who has been wrongly charged may be able to claim a rebate and would no longer be charged the £38 per year drainage fee.

"Anglian Water couldn't have been more helpful, but did point out that householders had to contact them and apply for the rebate as they won't do it unless you ask for it. There is a groundswell of opinion that they should backdate this even further and it appears that OFWAT are pushing for this but we'll have to see how that pans out.

"You can easily check if your rainwater goes in to a soak-away rather than the main drains - if there's a drain by the gutter down pipe then it may be correct, but if there's no drain cover then you probably go into a soak-away and so shouldn't be charged.

We know a lot of people have already claimed this money and if it pays for someone's Christmas turkey or helps them afford a few extras at what is an expensive time of year, then we are happy to have been able to help the community."

A spokesman from Anglian Water said: "We are happy to remove the annual charge if it is not appropriate for the property and may be able to offer a rebate in some cases, but it would just not be viable for the company to look into charging issues going back six or eight years. If people have concerns they should contact our customer's services department."