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UK water firms propose significant bill increases amid infrastructure upgrades

  • UK water firms propose significant bill increases amid infrastructure upgrades

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Water companies in England and Wales are proposing significant increases in customer bills, ranging from 24% to 91% over the next five years, according to the Consumer Council for Water (CCW), informs the BBC.

The proposed increases are intended to fund investments worth £100 billion aimed at upgrading ageing infrastructure and reducing sewage discharges into the aquatic environment. The industry regulator, Ofwat, is set to decide on the allowable charges for the period from 2025 to 2030. Despite the companies' requests, fewer than one in six customers find the proposed bill hikes affordable, based on a survey mandated by Ofwat.

Water companies have faced criticism for widespread leaks and sewage discharges, which critics attribute to long-term under-investment. The proposed bill rises are intended to address these issues, but the scale of the increases has raised concerns. Mike Keil, chief executive of the CCW, acknowledged that the proposed hikes would be a "massive surprise" to many people, emphasizing the need for companies to clearly communicate the benefits of the investments.

The specific increases vary widely among companies. Southern Water is requesting the highest hike at 91%, with bills that could rise to £915 annually by 2030, while Thames Water is requesting a 59% increase to £749. Other companies are proposing more modest increases, while South Staffordshire and Cambridge Water asking for the lowest rise of 24%.

Southern Water’s proposed increase reflects significant planned upgrades to address serious infrastructure problems. The company’s chief customer officer, Katy Taylor, cited the unique challenges of their water-stressed region and the need to safeguard supplies and protect the environment.

Water industry body Water UK said companies were "massively increasing the level of financial support they offer to customers who struggle to pay their bills", adding that Ofwat will scrutinize the plans and is expected to approve only necessary and cost-effective investments. Ofwat’s preliminary report on the proposed bill rises will be published on June 12, with final figures to be confirmed in December.

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