Water bills across England and Wales are set to rise by an average of 4.1 per cent including inflation, increasing the average bill to £342 a year (see table for each company’s average bill increase).
Because of the way that water prices are set, these price increases were agreed by the regulator, Ofwat, back in 2004 to provide water companies with funding to invest in upgrading their networks, leakage control, customer service and environment improvements.
Dame Yve Buckland, Chair of the Consumer Council for Water, said: “Any price increase will be a concern for customers in the current economic climate, and we recognise that many customers may struggle to keep up with these bill rises.
“In 2004 Defra predicted that more than one in ten customers would struggle to afford the prices being announced today, because, for these households, water bills would make up more than three per cent of income after tax.
“We have been pressing the government to address the issue by providing more help through the tax and benefits system for customers struggling to pay their water bills, and we are working actively with the government’s current review of charging and affordability of water.
“Customers have told us that they are unhappy with year on year above inflation price increases, and since we were set up in 2005, we have called for water companies to give something back to consumers from their profits. We are encouraged that Anglian Water, Northumbrian Water, Yorkshire Water, Wessex Water, United Utilities, and Thames Water all answered our call. This resulted in £130 million in reduced prices, help for vulnerable customers, and extra investments to benefit consumers.
“Water companies, Ofwat, the Consumer Council for Water, and other regulators are now in discussions that will set prices for 2010 to 2015, and we are working hard to make sure that water prices for the next five years deliver good value for money and are acceptable to customers.”