28/11/2003

Poorer customers to struggle with water prices, says watchdog

Low income customers across the east of England may struggle to pay their water bills if the proposed price increases get the go-ahead, says the local watchdog.

With the average household bill possibly increasing by £101, plus inflation, for Anglian water customers over the five-year period 2005-10, WaterVoice Eastern says it is "important" that help is at hand for customers who are struggling.

WaterVoice Eastern is now asking water companies to provide information about what assistance is available to those customers who need it.

Water and sewerage companies, including Anglian Water, have sent their draft business plans for the next price review from 2005 to 2010, to economic regulator Ofwat, which will make a decision in November next year.

Water only companies including Essex & Suffolk want to increase average household bills by £38, Tendring Hundred by £6 and Cambridge by £28, plus inflation, over the five-year period 2005-10.

Catherine Harvey, WaterVoice Eastern Chairman, said: "We are concerned for those customers on low or fixed incomes that the proposed price increases may prove to be an unacceptably large percentage of household incomes.

"We are, therefore, recommending that companies make it clear to customers what help they may get."

WaterVoice does, however, support the need for increased spending to maintain the water and sewerage systems.

(gmcg)

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