A PLUMBER who fixed boilers and leaky taps for elderly and disabled people free has been forced to charge a small fee to keep the service going.

James Anderson has run Disabled and Elderly Plumbing and Heating Emergency Response (DEPHER) for 16 months, providing a range of gas, water and heating services for vulnerable people.

The 50-year-old, who also runs Northern Plumbing and Heating Ltd in Burnley, had provided his services free to residents across East Lancashire.

However without regular funding, Mr Anderson has been forced to charge 25 per cent of the costs otherwise he would have to end the service.

Mr Anderson said the small fee would help keep the company going.

He said: “We are a vital part of the community and have prevented lots of people from potentially fatal incidents.

“I’ve gone out to elderly people who couldn’t find help in the bad snow earlier this year, and we have gone out in the middle of the night to stop gas leaks.

“We provide an important service which a lot of people depend upon, we’ve helped 179 people with broken showers, broken baths, frozen pipe works, everything.”

Mr Anderson started the company when he discovered a customer, who had gone to him for a second opinion, was going to be charged more than £5,000 for a new boiler, when he only needed a simple part replacing.

He wanted to make sure elderly or disabled people, who were vulnerable to rogue traders, could get their work done free.

Mr Anderson said: “I really don’t want to close this service down and let people suffer when I can help.

“The 25 per cent charge of the bill will go back into DEPHER and go into materials and insurance costs.

“We sadly don’t get government funding and I rely a lot on profits from my own business.

“Anyone, or any organisation, that could help with funding would be really appreciated.

“When you go to a property and you see the worry and upset that the elderly and disabled have to bear makes you stand and think about your humanity.

“You see the issues they have to face day by day and the battles they have gone through that put them in a position of vulnerability.”

To contact Mr Anderson, call 01282 700102.