Anglian Water customers tell bosses to keep bills down

Anglian Water

Anglian Water - Credit: Archant

Thousands of Anglian Water customers have poured cold water on the idea of higher bills following a massive consultation asking them what they want from the company,

Anglian Water managing director Peter Simpson.

Anglian Water managing director Peter Simpson. - Credit: Supplied

Anglian this year canvassed the views of its six million users as it puts together its five year investment plans due to come into effect from 2015.

More than 50,000 people responded to the consultation, through questionnaires, focus groups and telephone surveys, and bosses are now pledging to peg bill rises at inflation levels and hope to waive an additional levy, which saw them add an extra 1pc to bills on top of that.

But with the firm using the Retail Price Index as its pricing yardstick – currently 3.3pc – that is still likely to see hard-pressed consumers paying more.

And it is also rolling out more water meters – with the aim that 93pc of customers will be using them by 2020, up from the current 75pc figure.

However, it ruled out forcing customers to take up meters and said it would offer a two-year switchback guarantee for those who might have second thoughts after changing.

Customers also said they wanted more action on tackling leaks, but they were split on the firm's plans for environmental improvements with some suggesting it should focus on the core business and delivering value for money. The news came as Ofwat chief Regina Finn yesterday issued a warning to water firms stating it was 'now time to deliver for billpayers' calling on water companies to focus on what customers wanted when putting their strategic plans together.

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Peter Simpson, Anglian Water's managing director, said: 'We gathered the views of more than 50,000 people to help shape both our plan for 2015 – 2020 and beyond. The message came back that people don't want to see any deterioration in the service they get, but they are worried about the cost of living.

'We can't control inflation but feel its impact as much as our customers. So we are making a commitment that, as long as our regulator agrees, bills won't rise by more than inflation and we won't ask customers for any more on top of that.'

But he ruled out a complete price freeze. He said: 'A plan which asked people to pay bills rising more than their other costs simply wouldn't be credible. We realise that customers would prefer no increase in their bills at all. But the reality is we need to spend money on essential equipment and maintenance, to help prevent flooding and pollution, and of course we must cope with the challenges of a growing population and a changing climate.'

Bernard Crump, chairman of the Central and Eastern Region of the Consumer Council for Water, said an inflation-only rise would still be 'quite a substantial increase' for customers. But he welcomed the overall suggestions put forward by Anglian Water and urged customers to make their views known.

'Many people are getting less than inflation in terms of their wage increases, or benefits if they are being supported,' he said. 'We will certainly continue to work with Anglian Water to see if they have any scope to go any further than that in their final business plans.'

Anglian Water now wants customers to give their verdict on the proposals before submitting them to the regulator Ofwat in December.

Meanwhile Ofwat chief executive Regina Finn yesterday confirmed changes to the way it regulated the water and sewerage sectors insisting it would make companies more efficient and customer-focused, while ensuring more sustainable water use.

'We want companies to move away from ticking regulatory boxes and to concentrate instead on the importance of delivering for customers now and in the future including the environment,' she said. 'Our changes will drive a more efficient, dynamic, and customer-focused sector, developing long term solutions to meet long term challenges.'