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Bermondsey couple in their 70s with arthritis and heart problems forced to go without hot water for a week

An elderly and unwell Bermondsey couple have complained of ‘heartless’ treatment after being left without hot water for nearly a week – ruining their first holiday in three years.

Ronnie Bates and his wife Sally, who are both in their seventies, had a routine check on their boiler last Wednesday week, September 15. The workman discovered a problem that meant the boiler had to be turned off immediately. The immersion heater was also broken, leaving Ronnie suddenly without hot water.

Ronnie and Sally both have arthritis and severe problems with their hearts – and the workman said he would report the broken boiler and immersion heater as urgent. But Ronnie had not heard anything by Friday and so called the council.

The council officer he spoke to told him that OCO, Southwark’s heating contractors for the area, would only be able to fix the problem on September 22 – a full week after the issue was first found. But within a day of the News contacting the council and OCO, the boiler was fixed and Ronnie had hot water again.

Ronnie and Sally had been planning to go on a caravan holiday to Dymchurch in Kent – their first trip away in three years. Sally was able to go but Ronnie had to stay to let the contractors in. “I’ve missed out on my holiday – it’s messed us up,” he said.

“She’s gone because she can have a shower in the caravan,” Ronnie added on Monday, before the boiler was fixed. “It’s not just the shower that’s the problem. Today is not that warm, I’ve got a dressing gown on. We’ve both got arthritis, you can feel the cold in your bones.”

Ronnie, who has been a council tenant for about 40 years, said he was upset at the way both council officers and OCO staff handled the problem at first. “They said it was going to be fixed urgently, but then when I phoned up two days later no one seemed to know what was going on.

“Then when I eventually spoke to OCO, the woman told me that she had had the same problem and I should boil water in pots and pans.

“I told her we’ve both got arthritis – we shouldn’t be carrying pots of boiling water upstairs. I didn’t like the way I was dealt with. It was heartless.”

OCO were contacted for comment but did not reply in time for publication. The council confirmed the boiler had been fixed on Monday but did not comment further.



  1. I am so sorry to hear that another resident of Southwark Council have to endure their wrath. I have been without heating and hot water since January 2021 and am disabled. I have had to deal with stomach ulcers this year amongst other things. The council have ignored my request to gain access to the cupboard so that my own workman can gain access to do remedial work to prevent water from the council’s pipes dropping on my boiler electrics. I have requested three times as it was an emergency. I am a Leaseholder I am still waiting

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