Water companies must do more to support customers struggling to pay their bills, says water watchdog

WATER COMPANIES must make sure that customers who cannot afford to pay their bills are given the help they need, according to the Consumer Council for Water (CCWater).

The watchdog’s call comes as today’s annual publication of charges by Water UK reveals that the average water and sewerage bill in England and Wales will rise by £2 to £389 in 2016/17 – an increase of less than 1 per cent.

The figures show average bills but what customers actually end up paying will vary depending on individual circumstances. Some customers will pay more and some less than the average bill for their company.

Today’s announcement marks the second wave of charges under the five-year price setting deal finalised by Ofwat, the industry’s regulator, in December 2014. Between 2015 and 2020 household bills are set to fall by an average of 5 per cent (before inflation).

Tony Smith, Chief Executive of CCWater, said: “We are pleased that the rise in bills for 2016-17 is less than 1 per cent but it is still an increase. Affordability is still a concern for many low-income households who are already struggling to pay. Our research shows that one in eight customers in England and Wales are already finding it difficult to afford their water bill*.

“Water companies need to do more to ensure that customers who are struggling or unable to pay their bill get the help they need. We have been working with the companies to ensure that they raise awareness of the social tariffs and other assistance schemes they can offer customers who urgently need support.”

CCWater has helped 15 water companies to launch social tariffs and more are in the pipeline this year. Households who are already struggling to pay their bill should contact their water company and ask for help.

The water watchdog is also supporting struggling customers by working with poverty relief charity Turn2us to launch an online benefits calculator and grants search tool to enable customers to identify additional income to help them to pay their bills.

The tools are available on the CCWater website – www.ccwater.org.uk – along with a water meter calculator which customers can use to find out whether they would save money by switching to a water meter.

*Water Matters: Household customers’ views of their water and sewerage services, 2014

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For more information or to arrange an interview with a CCWater spokesperson please call the media team on 0121 345 1006.

Forecast average household bills in 2016/17

Water and sewerage companies Average water bill 2016/17 Change from 2015/16 Average sewerage bill 2016/17 Change from 2015/16 Average combined bill 2016/17 Average change in combined water and sewerage bill
Anglian £182 £3 £229 £2 £411 £5 1%
Dwr Cymru £181 £0 £257 £0 £438 £0 0%
Northumbrian – North East £174 £1 £203 £5 £378 £7 2%
Severn Trent £172 -£3 £157 £3 £329 £0 0%
South West £219 -£4 £319 £8 £488 £5 1%
Southern £147 £2 £264 -£9 £411 -£7 -2%
Thames £198 £2 £176 £2 £374 £5 1%
United Utilities £201 £1 £214 £2 £415 £3 1%
Wessex £234 -£1 £226 +£1 £460 £0 0%
Yorkshire £162 £3 £204 £2 £366 £5 1%
   
Water only companies Average water bill 2016/17         Change in water only bill – not including sewerage charges
Affinity            
Central region £174         £2 1%
East region £174         £0 0%
Southeast region £206         £3 2%
Bournemouth £136         £1 1%
Bristol £175         -£2 -1%
Dee Valley £145         £7 5%
Northumbrian – Essex & Suffolk £236         £4 2%
Portsmouth £98         £1 1%
South East £198         £0 0%
South Staffordshire              
Cambridge £127         -£2 -2%
South Staffordshire £142         -£2 -2%
Sutton and East Surrey £186         £3 2%
          Overall average change   (combined bill)
National average bill (England and Wales) £183 £1 £206 £1 £389

£2

 

1%

 

  1. Average bills for 2016-17 are estimates based on forecast data provided by water companies.
  2. The average household bill is, by definition, an average across all customers. Individual customers’ bills may be more or less than the average because of their particular characteristics, for example, whether they have a water meter. Changes to customers’ bills will vary according to which company supplies them. Some customers receive their water services from one company and receive their sewerage services from another. To calculate the average combined bill, you must add the average water bill to the average sewerage bill.
  3. The change in the Wessex Water bill is a comparison against the forecast average 2015-16 bill published by Water UK in January 2015.
  4. Since April 2013, household customers served by South West Water have benefited from a Government Contribution, which reduces the bill for all households by £50 per year. This £50 reduction is applied to the combined average bill in this table. Without the Government Contribution, South West Water’s combined average bill would be around £538.
  5. The national average bill figure for England and Wales of £389 is weighted to reflect the number of customers served by individual companies. It also does not factor in the Government Contribution to South West Water’s household bills. The national average bill figure therefore incorporates an average South West Water household bill of £538.
  6. Some numbers may not add up due to rounding.

Notes for editors

The Consumer Council for Water (CCWater) – ‘The independent voice of water customers’.

Who are we?

  • CCWater was established in 2005 to provide strong representation for water customers in England and Wales.
  • We are a non-departmental public body sponsored by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and Welsh Government.
  • We are independent of water companies and regulators.

What have we achieved for water customers?

  • Ensured that average household water & sewerage bills will fall by 5 per cent by 2020, before inflation is added, by putting customers at the heart of the 2014 Price Review.
  • Helped over 300,000 customers with complaints or enquiries about their water and sewerage services and secured over £20 million in compensation and rebates since 2005.
  • Overseen a 60 per cent reduction in customer complaints since their peak in 2007/08 through challenging water companies to get more things ‘right first time.’
  • Achieved all of this and more at an annual cost of just 21p per water customer.

www.ccwater.org.uk

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