Water bill rises will add to misery, say campaigners

Households will face a 4.1pc increase on their water bills from April according to the latest price hikes announced yesterday.

Last night Anglian Water, whose increase matches the national average, said the rise was actually equivalent to a nearly 0.1pc cut when taking into account the current high inflation levels.

But consumer groups and local campaigners were less positive warning it would see already hard-hit families struggling even more as yet another bill went up.

The figures, announced by industry watchdog Ofwat yesterday, mean the average combined water and sewerage bill for Anglian Water customers will be �398. For those on a meter, that drops to �360 but households paying a fixed, un-metered rate, will pay an average of �483.

The national average bill will be �356 across England and Wales.

Ciaran Nelson, Anglian Water spokesman, said the increased had been worked out in consultation with OfWat which adds the retail price index (RPI) rate of inflation - 4.71pc - to any agreed rise.

The company had intended to reduce bills by about 0.1pc but, once the RPI was added, it left an increase of 4.1pc.

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Mr Nelson said the high inflation rate was a sign that costs were increasing for the company as well.

Last night Jon Clemo, chief executive of the Norfolk Rural Community Council, said a 4.1pc increase would have a significant impact on people across the county.

He said: 'The thing about inflation is, yes, there are historically high inflation rates at the moment however, for the average family, not many people will have seen a cost of living increase on their wages. Incomes haven't adjusted to reflect that inflation.

'This will have a real impact on people's pockets.'

Natinoally, the Consumer Council For Water said one in six people were already unable to afford their water bills and this latest announcement would add to the pressure.

While Ann Robinson from uSwitch.com said there was little anyone could do to avoid the increases. Customers did not have the option of switching suppliers and water was a necessity, not a luxury.

Anglian Water, which serves more than 666,000 customers across Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex, acknowledged the increases would be a blow for many households who were already finding it tough.

Mr Nelson said the company was committed to investing in improvements to its pipe network – including fixing leaks and installing new water meters.

He urged anyone struggling to pay their bill to get in touch and consider having a water meter installed for free to see if it could save them money.

Households served by Dwr Cymru Welsh Water will see the lowest rise in England and Wales for water and sewerage at 2.7pc.

Northumbrian Water customers will be hit with the highest hike at 7.8pm for both services.

Regina Finn, Ofwat chief executive, said water bills would remain 'broadly in line with inflation' until 2015 while companies invested more than ever before.