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Water bosses to face ban on bonuses – but move ‘too weak and feeble’, say Liberal Democrats | UK News

Bosses of water companies responsible for illegal sewage spills are to face a ban on their bonuses after years of campaigns and public outrage.  

Environment Secretary Steve Barclay announced payouts would be blocked to chiefs who oversee the polluting of rivers, lakes, and seas – starting with bonuses in the financial year starting this April.

It was revealed bosses received more than £26m in bonuses, benefits, and incentives over the last four years.

Analysis by the Labour Party found nine water chief executives were paid £10m in bonuses, £14m in incentives and £603,580 in benefits since 2019.

Senior executives from five of the 11 water companies that deal with sewage took bonuses last year, while the other six, including heads of Yorkshire Water and Thames Water, declined after public anger.

Health and Social Care Secretary Steve Barclay arrives in Downing Street, London, for an emergency Cobra meeting with ministers, police chiefs and national security officials, amid fears that the conflict between Hamas and Israel could have increased the domestic terror threat in Britain. Picture date: Monday October 30, 2023.
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Steve Barclay announced the policy today. Pic: PA

There has been outrage around the illegal activity and calls by Labour and the Liberal Democrats to enforce the policy sooner, as water firms in England plan to hike customers’ bills by an extra £156 a year to invest in Britain’s Victorian infrastructure.

While Mr Barclay said he was “pleased” regular Ofwat was addressing bonuses following water companies’ poor performances, political opponents said the ban was “too weak and feeble”.

Liberal Democrat environment spokesperson and MP, Tim Farron, said: “Finally ministers have buckled to a campaign led by the Liberal Democrats over two years ago, but even now this attempt to ban bonuses sounds too weak and feeble.”

Mr Farron added the firms got away with “environmental vandalism” and called for the bonuses to be banned “today, regardless of criminal conviction”.

EMBARGOED TO 0001 THURSDAY AUGUST 10 File photo dated 08/10/19 of Liberal Democrat MP, Tim Farron, near Old Palace Yard outside Parliament, holding a sapling, amongst those placed by protesters, during an Extinction Rebellion (XR) protest in Westminster, London. Water firms have been accused of a "scandalous cover-up" after being unable to show much sewage they are pumping into rivers and seas. Issue date: Thursday August 10, 2023.
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Tim Farron said the policy was ‘too weak and feeble’. Pic: PA

Ofwat will consult on details of the proposed ban later this year, including to define the criteria.

This could include successful prosecution for the two most serious categories of pollution – such as causing significant pollution at a bathing site or conservation area, or where a company has been found guilty of serious management failings – according to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

It could apply to chief executives and all executive board members.

On the proposal, Mr Barclay said: “No one should profit from illegal behaviour and it’s time that water company bosses took responsibility for that.

“In cases where companies have committed criminal breaches there is no justification whatsoever for paying out bonuses. It needs to stop now.”

Labour claimed it was the spearhead for this change, with a statement from shadow environment secretary, Steve Reed MP, saying: “Once again Labour leads, the Conservatives follow.”

He called for the Tories to “back Labour’s plan” to clean up the rivers and prosecute executives responsible for illegal sewage dumping.

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What caused Britain’s sewage crisis?

Read more:
What’s gone wrong at Thames Water?
‘Sewage pumped into sea’ turns idyllic Cornwall cove brown

Labour said that under its plans, Ofwat could have blocked six out of nine water bosses’ bonuses last year.

Last year, Thames Water – which supplies one in four people in Britain – was fined more than £3m after pleading guilty to illegally discharging waste.

This included “millions of litres” of undiluted sewage near Gatwick Airport in 2017, which turned the water “black” and killed more than 1,000 fish.

UK weather: Govt told to ‘wake up and smell the flood water’ amid warning more homes will be affected | UK News

The government is being urged to “wake up and smell the flood water” following Storm Henk – amid fears that climate change is making extreme weather events more common.

More than 1,800 properties have flooded after heavy downpours fell on already sodden ground, and the Environment Agency has warned more homes will be affected as river levels remain high.

Follow latest updates on the UK floods

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Hundreds of homes submerged by floods

Mary Long-Dhonau, a long-time campaigner for flood resilience, has told Sky News that she believes the government has failed to do enough to prepare for such a storm.

She is urging Rishi Sunak to visit flooded communities, and see first-hand what homeowners are going through after their properties were “absolutely devastated”.

“Having filthy, stinking flood water violate your home is absolutely awful. Your home is your castle and people naturally want to look after it,” Ms Long-Dhonau said.

The campaigner, who has experienced the impact of flooding for herself, warned affected families will now have to “project manage a building site” while their homes are repaired.

She also called for farmers to receive greater support after their fields were inundated with water, and said natural flood management measures must be introduced nationwide.

Mary Long-Dhonau
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Mary Long-Dhonau

The government has unveiled a financial package for eligible areas in England that have suffered exceptional localised flooding.

Flooded households can receive £500 in cash to assist with immediate costs, council tax relief for at least three months, and up to £5,000 to make their properties more flood resilient in the future.

Support is also being made available to businesses – with grants of up to £2,500 so they can reopen.

Meanwhile, farmers who have suffered uninsurable damage to their land are eligible to receive as much as £25,000.

Read more UK news:
Sunak vows to cut taxes before election
Football fans ejected over ‘offensive gestures’

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‘Biblical’ flooding scenes in Nottinghamshire

‘Remain vigilant,’ Environment Agency warns

While rainfall has subsided, river levels remain elevated and are expected to stay this way for several days.

According to the Environment Agency (EA), parts of the River Thames in Oxfordshire – as well as the River Trent near Nottingham and the River Severn including Glocuester – are cause for concern.

As of 1am on Sunday, 192 flood warnings – meaning flooding is expected – are still in force. There are also 207 flood alerts that indicate flooding is possible.

Emergency responders are using temporary pumps, barriers and defences in an attempt to stop further homes and businesses from being flooded.

EA flood duty manager Katharine Smith said: “We urge people not to drive through flood water… it is often deeper than it looks and just 30cm of flowing water is enough to float your car.”

Check the latest weather forecast where you are

sun1200
sun1800

Mostly dry today

Sky News weather presenter Jo Wheeler says showery rain in the North and North East will fizzle out over time – and there will be a few showers in the South and South East, too.

She added: “Elsewhere, it’ll be dry with some good sunny spells where the fog clears.”

Daytime temperatures are set to remain below 5C (41F) for many – and the UK Health Security Agency has a cold weather alert in force until Friday.

However, the weather is set to be fairly settled over the next few days, and the Met Office currently has no warnings in force.

‘Where is the water?’: Residents queue to collect bottles after major incident leaves thousands without water supply | UK News

A major incident has been declared by Surrey County Council as thousands of households are without water.

Thames Water has apologised to residents for the inconvenience, saying it is dealing with the “technical issues” at Shalford treatment works in Guildford “caused by Storm Cairan”.

It has meant residents have had to travel to bottled water stations set up at Godalming Crown Court car park and Arlington Park and ride in Old Portsmouth Road.

At the water station in Godalming, dozens of cars backed up waiting for water causing congestion in the local area.

Thames Water representatives have been handing out two cases per household, with each case containing 12 bottles.

Screengrab from Jeremy Hunt's twitter
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Pic: @Jeremy_Hunt

“I’m furious,” said Serena Howard from Milford, who had been waiting in the queue for two hours to collect cases of water for herself and her neighbours.

“Where is the water for the people?” she asked.

Ms Howard said she was supposed to be on a priority list to get water delivered to her house because she and her daughter both have medical issues, but said she struggled to get through to anyone who could help and had to make the journey to collect it herself, despite being disabled.

“I have had my large bowel removed so I have diarrhoea… I can’t eat without it going straight through me. We have had to use the pond water to flush the toilet,” she said.

However, Ms Howard explained it was actually her young daughter she was worried about, who has recently been diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.

She said: “She is running high because she hasn’t had enough fluid today, she hasn’t had enough fluid to keep the sugar down, in her case if it drops too low it’s dangerous, if she goes too high – she is damaging her organs.”

Ms Howard eventually collected seven cases in total, some for her and others for her neighbours who she said have small children.

She was happy to help, but said: “I don’t feel it [should] be up to a disabled person to have to go out and help the others.”

Read more:
Flood warnings remain after Storm Ciaran – but rain expected to pass

Posting to X, formerly known as Twitter, Thames Water said: “We’ve made progress fixing the supply issues but need to refill reservoirs. We’re providing bottled water till 9pm and expect to do so again tomorrow.”

But there is a concern that if the technical issues are not fixed, it could mean children being kept off school come Monday – with parents having to find last-minute child care cover.

Paul is among those concerned, as the water in his household ran out on Saturday afternoon.

“It’s affected a lot. We can’t wash or anything, we can’t do anything. It’s terrible”

He explained he and his wife both work full time, and he was worried if schools had to close due to the outage they would have to figure out what to do with his children.

“One of us will have to take a day off to look after them,” he said. “It’s not good. Not good at all.”

Major incident declared after issue leaves thousands without water – and more set to lose supply | UK News

Thousands of people have been left without water on Sunday due to an issue at a Thames Water treatment works.

Thames Water apologised to residents in Godalming, Surrey, and said it was investigating.

Jeremy Hunt, the MP for the area, said a major incident had been declared. He posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, that he was very concerned and had spoken to the CEO of Thames Water.

It follows issues caused by Storm Ciaran at Shalford water treatment works, Thames Water said.

Mr Hunt said he was told by the CEO at 2.50pm that 13,500 customers did not have water and a further 6,500 were expected to lose supply shortly.

The site controls had been reset and were being tested, he added.

“If this is successful, they can increase production to a level that will restore supply,” he said.

Surrey County Council confirmed a major incident had been declared in the area, telling Sky News it was “due to the number of properties affected” and also due to the incident occurring on a Sunday, when fewer staff are around.

Read more:
Flood warnings remain after Storm Ciaran – but rain expected to pass

Bottled water stations have been set up at the Crown Court car park in Godalming and Artington park and ride in Guildford.

Thames Water said it was also delivering bottled water to vulnerable customers.

Thames Water said its engineers were on site and tankers were being used to pump water into its supply network.

A Thames Water spokesperson said: “We’re sorry to those people who have no water or lower pressure than normal.

“[We] are doing all we can to get things back to normal as quickly as possible.”

Swansea: Car ‘goes into water’ at marina | UK News

A car has gone “into the water” at a marina in Swansea.

South Wales Police confirmed its officers had attended along with colleagues from other emergency services.

They were called to reports of the incident shortly after 10am on Wednesday.

Pictures from the scene show multiple police vehicles and ambulances in attendance.

The air ambulance was also at the scene and a police cordon was put in place.

A spokesperson for the Wales Ambulance Service said the service was called at around 10.01am.

“We sent four hazardous area response teams, one air ambulance, two Cymru high acuity response units, one duty operational manager and one emergency ambulance to the scene where we were assisted by colleagues from the Emergency Medical Retrieval and Transfer Service who travelled by air,” they added in a statement.

It is not yet known if anyone was in the vehicle at the time.

The incident is currently ongoing and no further details are available at this time.

Thames Water fined more than £3m over sewage spill that turned rivers black near Gatwick Airport | UK News

Thames Water have been fined more than £3m after admitting polluting rivers.

The company, which supplies one in four people in Britain with water, had pleaded guilty to four charges relating to illegally discharging waste.

It was fined £3.3m at Lewes Crown Court on Tuesday.

The court heard “millions of litres” of undiluted sewage was pumped into the Gatwick Stream and River Mole between Crawley in West Sussex and Horley in Surrey on 11 October, 2017.

The hearing was told that the spill turned the water “black” and killed more than 1,000 fish.

More than 1,000 fish died as a result of sewage in rivers
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More than 1,000 fish died as a result of sewage in rivers

Judge Christine Laing KC said that she believed the firm had shown a “deliberate attempt” to mislead the Environment Agency over the incident, by omitting water readings and submitting a report to the regulator denying responsibility.

The company has previously been fined £32.4m for pollution incidents in the Thames Valley and south-west London between 2017 and 2021.

During the first day of the hearing on Monday, the court heard how a storm pump at Crawley Sewage Treatment Works site was unexpectedly diverting sewage to its storm tank for 21 hours and went “unnoticed”.

Prosecutor Sailesh Mehta estimated untreated sewage was spilling into the river for six and a half hours after no alarm was raised.

When an alarm was raised the lead technician was unreachable as they were waiting for a new mobile phone.

Read more:
Why is sewage pumped into rivers and the sea?

What’s gone wrong at Thames Water?
Thames Water customers told ‘nothing’ will happen with customers’ bills
Thames Water: ‘Contingency plans are in place’

Eyewitness accounts read in court said how they saw the river turn “black” and “grey”, with “huge numbers of dead fish” visible in the water.

Nearly 1,400 dead fish were recovered from the rivers by the Environment Agency following the incident.

Lisa Roberts KC, representing Thames Water, said the firm expresses its “unreserved and sincere apology” for the incident, adding: “Put bluntly, it shouldn’t have happened and Thames deeply regrets the event.”

More than 1,000 fish died as a result of sewage in rivers

She said the company rejects that previous issues were to blame for the spillage, putting it down to a “faulty switch” in the storm pump which meant the incident could not have been predicted.

A £33m plan to improve the Crawley site has been put in place since the incident, according to Ms Roberts, with aims to complete it by the end of March 2025.

New systems have also been rolled out across other Thames Water sites to prevent such incidents happening again.

The fine comes as the company faces concerns over its future amid a mounting £14bn debt.

Thames Water’s chief executive Sarah Bentley stepped down with immediate effect last week after she gave up her bonus due to the company’s environmental performance.

In 2021, Southern Water was fined a record £90m for nearly 7,000 incidents of illegal discharge of sewage across Hampshire, Kent and Sussex.

From privatisation to profits: How providing clean water became a murky business | UK News

The revelation that ministers are considering bringing Thames Water into temporary public ownership has reopened the fierce debate over the privatisation of the country’s water industry.

The sudden resignation of the company’s chief executive and Sky’s exclusive report into government contingency plans for the firm’s potential collapse comes amid growing calls for change following a string of controversies and scandals to hit the sector in recent years.

‘Vast improvement’

The current system of private monopolies dates back to 1989 when Conservative prime minister Margaret Thatcher sold off the publicly-owned water and sewage industry in England and Wales for £7.6bn.

She vowed it would lead to a new era of investment, improve water quality and help bring down bills. Her government also wrote off all debts and established Ofwat to regulate the industry.

Supporters argue that the water industry is now significantly better, while also acknowledging improvements are still needed.

Water UK, the industry body which represents firms, said on the 30th anniversary of privatisation in 2019 that the situation had “vastly improved” with a fall in supply problems, pollution, and leaks thanks to nearly £160bn worth of investment over the decades.

It also claimed that “average bills today are broadly the same as 20 years ago, once inflation is taken into account”.

However this is disputed.

Thames Water

‘The most egregious rip off’

Opponents say privatisation has led to soaring bills, poor performance and years of under-investment, and claim that the pay of executives and shareholders has been prioritised at the expense of long-suffering customers.

They also point to a National Audit Office study in 2015 which found that average household bills had risen 40% above inflation since 1989.

Water firms have also accrued £54bn in debt since privatisation – but paid out dividends to shareholders of £66bn, according to an analysis by The Guardian newspaper last year, with 20% of bills going towards servicing debt or paying out dividends on average.

Those calling for renationalisation include Labour’s former shadow chancellor John McDonnell, who responded to Sky’s latest report on Thames Water by describing it on Twitter as “the most egregious rip off” of all the firms.

Regulator row

Meanwhile regulator Ofwat has also been accused of lacking the necessary teeth to take on water companies.

Critics include the Liberal Democrats, who have called for the body to be abolished and “replaced with a tough new independent regulator with real powers”.

The government has vowed to increase penalties, with Environment Secretary Therese Coffey proposing earlier his year measures including unlimited fines for firms caught polluting.

Public opinion

Most of the public support renationalisation of the water industry, according to opinion polls.

YouGov found in September 2022 that 63% of the public believed it should be run “entirely in the public sector”.

Even among Conservative voters the idea is popular, with 58% in favour, according to the same survey of more than 1,700 adults.

However there appears to be little appetite for such a move from the government , while Labour has backtracked on supporting the policy.

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A huge sewage spill caught on camera in Cornwall

Scandals

For or against privatisation, public dissatisfaction at water firms remains following a string of scandals and controversies.

Water UK confirmed earlier this year that bills would see the biggest increase in almost 20 years from April.

The 7.5% hike means average customers are now paying £31 more annually this year – taking the typical bill to £448.

The industry body then made an an unprecedent public apology following mounting fury over raw sewage being released into Britain’s waters.

Figures from the Environment Agency revealed it was pumped into England’s rivers and seas at least 301,091 times last year – an average of 824 a day.

Water UK said campaigners had been “right to be upset about the current quality of our rivers and beaches”.

But there was then further anger when firms admitted a planned £10bn investment in measures to tackle the issue would be funded by a “modest increase” in customers’ bills.

Water leaks have become another major issue – especially at a time of shortages and record high temperatures.

South East Water, which this week introduced a hosepipe ban for two million people in Kent and Sussex, has enraged customers over supply issues.

Residents in East Sussex said they had been left without water for 23 days despite the firm admitting that its reservoirs were topped up and said its infrastructure had struggled to cope with demand.

Meanwhile another firm, Welsh Water, admitted earlier this year that it been under-reporting the amount of leakages it was responsible for.

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Ruth Kelly apologises on behalf of Water UK for sewage in rivers

Multi-million pound profits and eye-watering pay packets for firms have further fuelled discontent.

Thames Water reported pre-tax profits of £493.5m in the six months to September 2022, despite the firm introducing a hosepipe ban for its 15 million customers during the year.

In 2021 the firm paid out £11m compensation after it was caught overcharging customers.

The boss of the company who resigned, Sarah Bentley, was reportedly set to receive pay and perks worth £1.6m this year.

It came after Ms Bentley said earlier this year how she was “heartbroken” about the company’s historical failings – while admitting there had been “decades of underinvestment”.

Sky News understands that talks over the future of Thames Water remain at a preliminary stage and the contingency plans may not need to be activated.

Either way, the pressure and scrutiny on such firms is unlikely to go away any time soon.

Water company boss blames people working from home for hosepipe ban | UK News

A water company boss has blamed people working from home for a new hosepipe ban. 

South East Water will impose the first hosepipe ban of the summer from Monday, affecting more than two million homes and businesses across Kent and Sussex.

Its chief executive, David Hinton, said in a letter to customers that post-pandemic working from home was a “key factor” behind the ban, as it has “increased drinking water demand”.

File photo dated 23/08/22 of a woman watering her front garden, as a hosepipe ban is set to come in across Kent and Sussex due to a record demand for drinking water, South East Water bosses said.
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A woman watering her front garden, as a hosepipe ban is set to come in across Kent and Sussex

He wrote: “Over the past three years the way in which drinking water is being used across the southeast has changed considerably.

“The rise of working from home has increased drinking water demand in commuter towns by around 20% over a very short period, testing our existing infrastructure.”

Mr Hinton also blamed low rainfall since April for leaving water butts empty, as well as pointing to a recent spell of hot weather which he claims led to a spike in demand for drinking water.

“Our reservoir and aquifer stocks of raw water, essential to our water supply but not ready to be used, are in a good position. However, demand for treated mains water, which takes time to process and deliver, was greater than we could meet,” he said.

“Over the past week we have needed to find water to supply the equivalent of an additional four towns the size of Maidstone or Eastbourne every day.”

Greg Clark, the Conservative MP for Tunbridge Wells, told The Times: “Their only job is to deliver drinking water.

UK weather: The latest Sky News forecast

“But in my constituency, they have run out of water twice in six months – once just before Christmas when we had a cold snap, and now after a small and unexceptional heatwave.

“What they’re describing in terms of people working for home is by no means specific to this area.

“There has been for some time a tendency for people to work more from home. A water company should be able to predict and accommodate for this.”

A spokeswoman for the water regulator Ofwat told The Times: “South East Water must do better to predict and manage operational issues, help customers, and engage with them on what is happening and why.

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“Customers will be asking why, for the second time in six months, their water company is being caught out by the weather.”

South East Water’s Head of Service Management, Steve Andrews, defended the ban, saying it was “introduced to ensure that we can deliver drinking water to all our customers consistently”.

He added: “We want to thank our customers for being mindful of their water use and remind them to continue to use water wisely over the coming weekend.”

Water firms to face unlimited fines for polluting – as environment secretary accused of ‘national scandal’ | UK News

Water companies could face unlimited fines for polluting under new government plans.

Environment Secretary Therese Coffey is expected to announce measures next week to introduce tougher pollution fines that will be put into a “water restoration fund”.

It comes as opposition politicians called on Ms Coffey to resign over the amount of sewage water companies have discharged into UK waterways.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer accused the government of “turning Britain’s waterways into an open sewer”, as new figures showed water companies took no action to reduce pollution despite discharges falling by 19% in 2022.

Sewage spills out of pipes like these whenever there's significant rain in London
Image:
Sewage spills out of pipes like these whenever there’s significant rain in London

Liberal Democrats leader Sir Ed Davey accused Ms Coffey of presiding over a “national scandal”, saying she should “now resign or be sacked”.

He said: “These figures are a damning verdict on the government’s failure to protect our treasured rivers and lakes. This is a national scandal and it is happening on the Conservatives’ watch.

“A historic drought is no excuse for this government’s inaction and failure. The environment secretary has let water companies get away with these environmental crimes for far too long.

“It is clear she simply doesn’t care enough to get tough on these polluting firms.

“Therese Coffey must now resign or be sacked so we can have an environment secretary who actually cares about saving our rivers from destruction.”

Environment Secretary Therese Coffey speaking during the National Farmers' Union Conference at the ICC, Birmingham. Picture date: Wednesday February 22, 2023.
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Environment Secretary Therese Coffey is expected to announce plans to ‘make polluters pay’

There were 301,091 sewage spills in 2022 according to the latest Environment Agency figures – an average of 824 a day.

This was a decrease of almost a fifth but the falling number of discharges was due to dry weather rather than measures taken by water companies.

Read more:
Good news on fall in sewage spills only highlights the scale of the challenge facing water companies – analysis
Government criticised for ‘repeating’ mistakes on beach sewage spills
Water bosses admit their performance has been ‘unacceptable’

Ms Coffey’s plans also include a six-week consultation examining the possibility of strengthening the Environment Agency’s ability to impose sanctions without going through the courts.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said the most serious cases will still be taken through criminal proceedings but that all other penalties would be quicker and easier to enforce.

Currently penalties and fines imposed by water regulator Ofwat are returned to the Treasury but under the new plans, money will instead be returned to Defra.

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Speaking about her plans, Ms Coffey said: “I know how important our beautiful rivers, lakes, streams and coastlines are for people and nature – and I couldn’t agree more that more needs to be done to protect them.

“I want to make sure that regulators have the powers and tools to take tough action against companies that are breaking the rules, and to do so more quickly.

“Through the Water Restoration Fund, I will be making sure that money from higher fines and penalties – taken from water company profits, not customers – is channelled directly back into the rivers, lakes and streams where it is needed.”

Campaigners have accused water companies of discharging sewage far more often than they should, including when there has been no rain, and have repeatedly called on water companies to use their profits to invest in more infrastructure.

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Water bills in England and Wales to rise by the most in almost 20 years | UK News

Water bills in England and Wales will increase by the most in almost 20 years from April.

The 7.5% hike will see the average customer pay £31 more annually than last year – taking the typical bill to £448, according to industry body Water UK.

It said bills were lower in real terms than a decade ago and that the below-inflation increase reflected rising energy costs, as water firms use 2% of the country’s electricity.

Consumer groups have warned that some of the one in five who are already struggling to pay could be pushed over the edge.

People with large families or on a meter could face a rise much higher rise than the average £31.

The Consumer Council for Water (CCW) said there was a postcode lottery of social tariff schemes, meaning some people who need help with their bills “slip through the net”.

“These increases will bring more uncertainty to struggling households at a time when they can’t be certain they will get the help they need,” said CCW chief executive Emma Clancy.

“Low-income households need immediate relief and the long-term security of knowing their water bill will be affordable.

“It’s not fair that struggling households face a postcode lottery when it comes to getting help with their bill – that’s why we urgently need a new water affordability scheme that provides consistent support based on people’s needs.”

Read more:
British Gas takes action amid claims debt firm broke into homes to install prepay meters

Fuel poverty charity National Energy Action also called for social tariffs to be made “fairer, more consistent, and accessible to everyone who needs it, regardless of where they live”.

Water UK policy director Stuart Colville said an extra £200m was being released by the companies to help such people.

“Anyone with worries should contact their water company or go to supportontap.org for advice, and it’s worth remembering that water companies will never cut anyone off, or make them use a prepayment meter,” he said.

Mr Colville said the rise would also support record investments and that a further £70bn would be spent in the coming years on new reservoirs and “building new reservoirs and ending overflows into rivers”.