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Water company told to lower bills

PUBLISHED: 17:51 24 July 2009 | UPDATED: 14:29 03 July 2010

EAST Anglian families could have more money in their pockets after a water company watchdog leapt to their defence last night.

Because of the economic slump, water industry regulator Ofwat wants to rein in plans by Anglian Water and Essex and Suffolk Water to increase customer bills over the course of 2010-15.

EAST Anglian families could have more money in their pockets after a water company watchdog leapt to their defence last night.

Because of the economic slump, water industry regulator Ofwat wants to rein in plans by Anglian Water and Essex and Suffolk Water to increase customer bills over the course of 2010-15.

If Ofwat gets its way in reducing proposed new charges, then some households will save up to £32 year on average - barring inflation.

In draft plans, Anglian Water, which serves 2.6 million customers across the region and the Midlands, had asked for bills to rise by 3pc above inflation by 2015 - an average rise of £11.

But the company was told yesterday that it should lower its average water and sewerage bill of £389 by 8pc to £356, excluding inflation - saving the average customer about £32 by 2015.

And Essex and Suffolk, which bills 760,000 households for water, wanted an inflation-busting rise of 3.4pc every year until 2015 - an average rise of £30.

But despite strong criticism, Ofwat said the company could still raise its water bill by 9pc overall from £169 to £184 in six years' time - at an average increase of £15 excluding inflation.

The 9pc rise in Essex and Suffolk Water bills was criticised by the Sir James Perowne, chairman of the Consumer Council for Water's central and eastern committee.

He said: “Any price increase will be difficult for some households to manage, especially in the current economic climate. There are customers who cannot afford their bills now. We accept that some increase may be necessary to maintain services - but customers will want to see the full justification for any price increase.”

The bill plans are due to be determined in November.

By 2015, Anglian Water looks set to invest £2.26bn in its facilities, which will also help it secure 7,000 jobs.

The company had been praised by Ofwat for an earlier decision to spike plans to up bills by 3pc plus inflation.

Jonson Cox, Anglian Water's chief executive, said: “We welcome the fact that Ofwat has commended us for consulting with our customers to keep bills affordable.

“Our job is now to study the detail contained in the 100-page draft determination and to work with Ofwat to achieve a full outcome that is fair and reasonable for customers and for the future needs of our growing region.”

Essex and Suffolk Water said the suggested 9pc increase would fund an expansion of its Abberton reservoir near Colchester and the maintenance of existing treatment sites.

Managing director John Cuthbert said: “We submitted a very detailed plan to Ofwat and when we have received all of the supporting inform-ation to the draft determination we will need time to understand fully the Ofwat approach. We will then be able to make a proper judgment on the draft determination.”

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