I am deeply concerned by the rising cost of water which is adding to the cost of living crisis. Household water bills have gone up by 12.5 per cent since 2010 at the same time there has been a reduction in average household incomes of as much as five per cent. As a result one in five customers struggle to pay their water bills.
The Government’s voluntary approach by which water companies can choose to offer a ‘social tariff’ means that just six water companies currently offer support to little more than 25,000 customers struggling with unaffordable bills. At the same time water companies last year made over £2 billion in profits and paid out £1.8 billion in dividends to shareholders, having paid just over £70 million in tax.
Rather than forcing water companies to help customers with unaffordable water bills, the Prime Minister has allowed them to pay back huge profits to their shareholders year after year.
I believe we need a new deal with the water companies. I would like to see a reform of the water industry, focused on affordability and fairness for all. Forcing all water companies to sign up to a National Affordability Scheme, ending the current postcode lottery and giving the regulator new powers to modify company licenses to cut bills, many of which have not been changed since they were first granted 25 years ago.
Such reforms would strike a fairer balance between finding new ways of supporting those who cannot pay and pursuing those who can but choose not to.