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Millions unable to pay water bill

John Fitzsimons
Written By:
John Fitzsimons

The Consumer Council for Water (CCW) has outlined proposals to improve access to help for the millions of households currently struggling to pay their water bills.

A review by the consumer body found that five our of six households who cannot pay their bills are not receiving the help they need, despite a significant rise in support schemes from water companies. It blamed this on an effective postcode lottery, where different schemes have significant variations in both the funding of the scheme and the eligibility criteria for help.

A single tariff

One of the key proposals from the CCW is for the introduction of a single social tariff which would apply across all of England and Wales, and ensure that no-one ever has to pay more than 5% of their income (after housing costs are accounted for) on water bills.

The CCW argued that this would mean people receive consistent and fair support based on their needs, rather than where they happen to live, with those eligible benefiting from a typical water bill drop of £190.

The body included other proposals in its report, such as calling for water firms to develop a better understanding of their customers’ needs and do more to raise awareness of the support schemes already on offer. 

It also called for water companies to write-off water charges while social tariff applicants wait for their first Universal Credit payment, and to provide low-income households with relatively low water use long-term bill incentives in order to encourage them to move to a water meter.

End the indignity of skipping meals

Emma Clancy, chief executive of the CCW, said that there was now a “golden opportunity” to introduce a simpler and fairer system which would remove the “indignity” of people skipping meals or essentials in order to pay their water bill.

She added: “Many people are craving certainty in these difficult times and these proposed changes would give millions of households one less thing to worry about and greater peace of mind – whatever the future holds.”

What’s happening to our water bills?

Water bills will fall by an average of £34, though this is a smaller drop than what had initially been announced by Ofwat, the water regulator.

The regulator outlined price controls for the five year period running from 2020 to 2025, which would have meant average bill drops of £50.

However, a host of suppliers complained about this to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), which eventually settled on the smaller drop figure of £34.