Water bills 'to be cut for poor'

A sprinkler head The deputy prime minister said the government had already introduced measures to cut utility bills

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Water companies in England and Wales are being issued guidance by the government to allow them to charge lower prices for the poorest customers.

Ministers want to see "social tariffs" based on ability to pay, as part of a broader drive to reduce utility bills.

An estimated 2.4 million households have trouble paying their water bills, which cost an average of £376 a year.

Water companies will be asked to select the customers who are most at risk and offer them a discount.

They are currently bound by regulator Ofwat's licensing conditions which means they cannot cut bills without contravening the law.

The government guidance, developed following a consultation by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, will allow them to make cuts.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said: "If you're struggling to make ends meet, not paying for essential utilities isn't an option but it can mean making tough choices elsewhere; like sacrificing healthy meals for the family or new school books.

"We've already announced tough new measures to see gas and electric bills fall by up to £100 a year. This will see struggling families save more."

Meter advice

Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman said: "Water companies now have the chance to work with their customers to find a solution that works for them - and I hope to see that solution in place as soon as possible."

Water companies are also expected to support vulnerable customers with advice on how to use water more efficiently, guidance on whether installing a water meter could save them money and referrals to debt and benefits advice.

BBC environment analyst Roger Harrabin said it was not yet clear whether companies would be compelled to reduce tariffs but it might suit some firms to do so.

He said reducing the charges for the poorest would take some of the political heat over raising bills for others to pay for the infrastructure that is needed to ensure areas avoid repeatedly lurching into emergency measures to combat drought.

The Consumer Council for Water welcomed the move, saying it was vital that help was made available to customers.

A spokesman said: "We will be working with water companies to identify how, subject to customer support, social tariffs might be used as part of their wider customer affordability strategies and to ensure that customers' views are central to any decisions."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 325.

    Water, water, everywhere, but not a drop to drink

    Why, because the Earth has been taken over by companies whose only reason for existence is to make money
    Will they sell it back to you - yes
    Cheaply - No

    To get back to square one you need to deal with the root cause - companies

  • rate this

    Comment number 324.

    'Therefore we could recognise that the "lower wage earning working class" have been the POOREST families for quite some time!
    Underlying Problem: Direct monetary subsidisation only feeds inflation and thus reduces overall affordable living standards!'

    I believe you have hit the nail square on the head !

  • rate this

    Comment number 323.

    Wirral18 @ 315 I did not make that up, she is on facebook openly declaring that to people, along with broadcasting all her suicide attempts since they took her children away. As I said, I don't know whether she is a one off but that is what she claims they pay her. I would happily screenshot the messages here but there is no facility to do so.

  • rate this

    Comment number 322.

    "Profits are evil, private business is evil ...
    Not that at all; it's monopolies and no competition that is evil. There is no choice at all with water company. Water is a necessity and people are forced to pay what a private company set the tarrif at. It is extortion.

  • rate this

    Comment number 321.

    Poor. yet they can still afford cigarettes, alcohol and plasma TV's etc.

  • rate this

    Comment number 320.

    It is thier own fault they are poor.They choose to not get a job/or to do a low paying job. They make this choice as they are poorly educated/couldn’t be bothered upskilling/or are lazy.One’s situation is based upon the life decisions one has made up until the present moment in their life. The sense of entitlement must end –as it is unaffordable, as we must cut 100 billion/year from welfare.

  • Comment number 319.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 318.

    303.Peter Barry

    Agree: restricting union power, i.e. they should not have the right to strike if a service is deemed essential and/or could directly or indirectly effect the well being and/or health of the general public.

    Disagree: "best managers from the industry". What you need are the most conservative and prudent managers in the industry - penny pinching long termists are under rated.

  • rate this

    Comment number 317.

    Just charge the same price for everyone.
    Lower prices for the "poor" means increased prices for the mugs who work and pay full whack already.

  • Comment number 316.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 315.


    Liz, you just made that up ha! Love it when people pretend to know someone who knows someone who gets £1m benefit package a year.

    Stories like that is why idiots believe people on benefits get an easy ride. My mates who are on the dole and desperately seeking a job are in a cycle of unemployment and depression because of it.

    99% of people do not choose unemplyment

  • Comment number 314.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 313.

    I see the 'free lunch' brigade are mostly contributing to this HYS.
    "Profits are evil, private business is evil and I expect all the goodies and dont see why I should pay for them.
    A bit like Greece, then.

  • rate this

    Comment number 312.

    Pricing should be the same for all.

    Companies are not there to be social services. The 'poor' get heaps of money from the state, they should have to cut their use of water by a meter and live within their means.

  • rate this

    Comment number 311.

    How about nationalising the freeholds on all farmland, and in return issuing equally valuable permanent transferable farming rights? That wouldn't affect the farmers or farming,

    I can just hear our local 'friendly' landowning farmer's response 'Get Off My Laaaand!' and yes we tax payers do subsidise not just farmers but anyone who has farm land, they don't actually have to farm it! Bonkers

  • rate this

    Comment number 310.

    There seems to be a lot of people here talking about benefits and how they don't pay much, I know this may be a one off case but someone I went to school with had a baby at 17, signed onto benefits and AFTER rent, billss etc she has £2500 a month. This was upped for her 2nd daughter and she still gets paid the same now both children are in care and she has no chance of a job earning the same.

  • rate this

    Comment number 309.

    Water privatisation doesn't benefit the consumer. They COULD raise investment capital from share issue or loans. But with a captive market they just raise prices. We have low water consumption as an ave. household (Southern Water stats). We were forced onto a meter and our bills doubled. The winners seem to be small households in large properties. The rest are penalised to benefit of shareholders.

  • rate this

    Comment number 308.

    288. BadlyPackedKebab - nice post.

    We need to stop assessing "rich" or "poor" by how much money they earn, and by the "quality of life" they have.

    Therefore we could recognise that the "lower wage earning working class" have been the POOREST families for quite some time!

    Underlying Problem: Direct monetary subsidisation only feeds inflation and thus reduces overall affordable living standards!

  • rate this

    Comment number 307.

    You cannot say on onehand everyone should be entitled to water and then say on the otherhand every company should make profit out of water. They are two opposing views that will not meet in the middle

    Water Companies are businesses. Their sole goal is to make profits. It wont matter what scheme you introduce because these companies are driven by their needs and not the needs of the people.

  • rate this

    Comment number 306.

    Our political, lobby led - cash for influence - taxi for hire, system sold out the public utility companies so that it could retain the positive input (campaign cash and post government fat cat jobs).

    In some third world countries corruption is more overt, cash in brown envelopes from top to bottom.

    In UK it seems it is more obtuse but much more effective but entirely at the top.


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