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In the Press

Excerpts from:

Daily Mail | February 26, 2007

Rising Water bills pile pressure on families

Becky Barrow, Business Correspondent

Water bills in some parts of the country are to rise by up to six times the rate of inflation, it emerged yesterday.

The higher charges from April 1 will be a blow to the millions of households who had to endure the inconvenience of hosepipe bans last summer.

South West Water’s 700,000 customers, who live mostly in Cornwall and Devon, will be the worst hit.

The company’s charges for unmetered households will rise more than any of its rivals, up an average of 16.1 per cent for 2007/08.

This will add nearly £80 to the average bill which will cost a record £650 or £1.78 a day for water and sewerage.

It comes at a time when most other household bills are also soaring.

The average energy bill is now above £1000 for the first time and council tax bills have nearly doubled since labour came to power.

South West Water’s Chief Executive Chris Loughlin admitted the rise would be unpopular. He said “We are acutely aware that this year ’s increases may cause difficulty for some customers.”

The company, which also supplies some customers in Dorset and Somerset, is offering to install free water meters, which it claims could cut the average bill from £650 to £378.

Off the 22 water companies, just one is cutting his bills – but only because it discovered recently it had been overcharging customers for two years.

Tendring Hundred Water Services which has just 70000 customers in Essex, admitted in September that an accounting error had caused the problem.

Its average bill for unmetered households who live in towns such as Harwich, Frinton and Clacton-On-Sea will be £192 after the cut. All the bill increases have just been published on the website of Offwat, the water regulator for England and Wales which has approved all the changes. When asked to justify the rises, most companies blamed the need to invest in their infrastructure.

Although other reasons they gave included the need to reduce odour at sewage and treatment works, while some, such as Thames Water are under pressure to cut their chronic leakage rates. Water companies lifted their hosepipe bans on 12million customers in January after four months of above average rainfall in the south of England.

The firms involved were Thames Water, Sutton and East Surrey, Southern Water and Three Valleys Water.

Most of the improved restrictions began last April following warnings that the South was in the midst of one of its worst droughts for a century.

The new charges

The cost of water from April 1

Biggest water companies
in England

%increase
average

average
unmetered bill

South West Water

16%

£650

Wessex Water

12.1%

£399

United Utilities

10.1%

£341

Northumbrian Water

7.7%

£292

Anglian Water

7.3%

£417

Yorkshire Water

7.3%

£319

Thames Water

6.7%

£281

Southern Water

6.6%

£349

Severn Trent

5.8%

£284


Figures based on average 2007/08 bill for larger households.
Source OFWAT