Call for "speedy" answer to high South West water bills

Image caption,
South West Water bills are almost £150 more than the national average

The government says it wants a "speedy" resolution to the problem of high water bills in south-west England.

Customers of South West Water, which supplies Devon, Cornwall and parts of Dorset and Somerset, have some Britain's of highest rates in Britain.

The issue was raised in the House of Commons on Monday night during a debate tabled by Plymouth MP Alison Seabeck.

The government confirmed a number of solutions, suggested in previous reports, were being examined.

'Water poverty'

Since water companies were privatised in 1989 South West Water users have paid more than other areas because of the region's relatively low population, its long coast line and cleaning programme.

In 2009, water users in Devon and Cornwall were told they could expect a cut of about £6 in bills over the next five years, which would bring a typical bill down to £483 - still almost £150 more than the national average charge of £340.

Image caption,
SWW customers have paid more to keep the region's beaches clean

According to the Consumer Council for Water, three out of 10 people in the South West are in "water poverty", with bills costing more than 3% of their income.

During the debate, Ms Seabeck, the Labour MP for Plymouth Moor View, said David Cameron had also acknowledged South West residents were also subsidising the water and sewage costs of the region's tourist industry.

Environment Minister Richard Benyon said he did not want to drag the issue out any longer than necessary, but thought it was important not to rush into something which could turn out to be a bad decision.

He said the first priority would be to help poorer households which were struggling with their water bills.

He said: "There is an urgency. People are coming to honourable members' surgeries in real difficulty and I think there is work to be done to address their concerns."

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