Water Bills to Rise by 3.5%

February 6, 2013

Household water and sewerage bills in England and Wales are set to rise by 3.5% this April until March next year, according to regulator Ofwat. The average bill will rise to £388 – 0.5% above the rate of inflation.

According to comparison website uswitch.com, the increases “will leave many households struggling to stay afloat.” Their concerns are echoed by a spokeswoman for the StepChange debt advice charity, who said, “Water is a necessity, so an above-inflation price rise on an essential such as this means that many families will be forced to make very difficult choices in order to pay their water bill.”

However, Ofwat chief executive Regina Finn said, “Back in 2009, companies wanted bill rises of 10% above inflation. That didn’t chime with what customers told us they wanted, so we said they could only increase bills in line with inflation. We understand that there is huge pressure on household incomes, and any rise is unwelcome. Inflation is driving these increases.”

“We will make sure customers get value for money and if companies fall short in delivering their investment promises, we will take action.”

The new charges will depend on what region you are in, but on average water bills are set to rise about £13 a year from April.

Thanks to government pledged contributions to reduce each household’s bill by £50, those in the south west will actually have reduced bills of 7.3%, about £40. However, because the water and sewerage bills in the south west are already some of the highest in the country, households will still be left paying an average of £499. In contrast, Thames Water, faced with a 5.5% leap, will be paying an average of £354.

This latest increase comes at a time when water companies are showing healthy profits. According to Dame Yve Buckland, who chairs the Consumer Council for Water, a watchdog for customers, “Water companies are making higher profits than expected and they need to give some of this back to their customers.

“They can limit their own prices or invest more money into services. They should not keep it all for shareholders and investors.”

Charity National Debtline has warned that it has had a major increase in the amount of people worried about water bill debts. Last year the charity received 19,667 calls from people worried about water debt, a stark contrast to the 597 calls it received in 2003.

Ofwat have said the increased bills will help pay for a £25bn investment programme, which will deliver real benefits to households in England and Wales.