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Water companies ask for bill increases of between 24% and 91%

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  • Author, Simon Jack and Oliver Smith
  • Role, Business editor and business reporter, BBC News

Water companies in England and Wales want bills to rise by between 24% and 91% over the next five years, according to figures compiled by the consumer watchdog.

Southern Water is asking for the highest increase of 91%, according to the Consumer Council for Water (CCW), and South Staffordshire and Cambridge Water are asking for the lowest increase of 24%.

Water companies say the increases will fund £100bn of spending over the period, which will include replacing aging and leaking pipes and reducing wastewater discharges into rivers and seas.

The latest demands for increased bills come ahead of a crucial meeting this week in which industry regulator Ofwat will decide what firms can charge between 2025 and 2030.

Water companies have been heavily criticized for widespread leaks and the amount of wastewater being dumped, which critics attribute to a lack of investment in the country’s infrastructure.

Less than one in six customers consider the increase in their water bill affordable, according to a survey Ofwat asked companies to carry out among their own customers.

The regulator is unlikely to approve the bill increases in full, but the BBC understands it is expected to accept bill increases of at least half the amount companies are requesting and, in some cases, considerably more than half.

Mike Keil, executive director of the CCW, said the bill increases “were going to be a big surprise to people.”

“People want to see improvements, they understand that requires investment, but I think the scale of what is proposed here will be a real shock and that is why water companies have redoubled their efforts to explain what people are doing.” . getting your money’s worth,” he said.

How much do companies want to increase their invoices?

  • Southern Water: 91% increase to £915 a year by 2030
  • Thames Water: 59% to £749
  • Hafren Dyfredwy: 56% to £676
  • Severn Trent: 50% up to £657
  • Wessex Water: 50% off £822
  • Yorkshire Water: 46% to £682
  • Dŵr Cymru: 43% to £702
  • United Utilities: 38% to £666
  • South East Water: 35% £330
  • Portsmouth Water: 31% to £157
  • Anglian Water: 29% to £682
  • Northumbria Water and Essex and Suffolk Water: 26% up to £530
  • Affinity Water 25% at £294
  • South Staff and Cambridge Water: 24% to £221

Source: Council of Water Consumers

Estimates are for average invoices. Costs will vary depending on the appraised value of a property.

The latest figures from the CCW incorporate changes from companies, regulator Ofwat and other bodies, including the Environment Agency, since its five-year plans for the period 2025-2030 were first presented last October.

The proposed increases include a target inflation rate of 2%, which is in line with the Bank of England’s target.

There is a very wide range of proposed bill increases, reflecting the very different challenges facing businesses in different parts of England and Wales.

The very high figure in Southern reflects important improvements in water infrastructure that has had serious problems.

Katy Taylor, Southern Water’s customer director, said the company shared “everyone’s concerns about increased payments” but added that “the water needs of our water-stressed region pose a unique set of challenges.” that require a significant investment.

He said the cash from the higher bills would be used to “reduce the use of storm overflows, safeguard water supplies for a rapidly growing population and protect the environment.”

Southern Water is owned by Australian company Macquarie, which has faced harsh criticism for the period when it was Thames Water’s largest shareholder.

In five of the 10 years it owned Thames, the company paid more in dividends than it made in profits, while debt rose from £2.5bn to more than £10bn in the same period.

Macquarie notes that it has recently injected £500m of additional cash into Southern Water.

Water UK, which represents suppliers, said the bill increases were “never welcome”, adding that water companies were “massively increasing the level of financial support they offer to customers struggling to pay their bills”.

“Ofwat is currently reviewing these plans and will only allow new, necessary and profitable investments. It will not allow water companies to spend money on anything they have already received funding for,” the industry body said.

Ofwat will publish a preliminary report on the bill increases it expects to approve on June 12, with figures to be finalized in December.

Water services are publicly owned in Northern Ireland and Scotland.

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