Water companies urged to use profits to help bolster support for those struggling to pay
More water companies could be using some of their profits to help bolster support for struggling households who face another rise in water bills from April.
CCW has called for action from water companies on the same day Water UK confirmed the average household water and sewerage bill in England and Wales will rise by about £27 to £473 from 1 April.
This is a 6 per cent average increase but regional variations and other individual factors – such as whether a customer is metered and how much water they use – means some households could face rises significantly above or below the average.
More than 2 million customers are receiving some form of support from companies with paying their water bill. This includes over 1.3 million low-income households in England and Wales receiving cheaper bills through companies’ social tariff schemes. These reduced bills for eligible customers by an average of £151 last year. However an even greater number of customers in need of help are slipping through the net, due to factors including low awareness and variations in eligibility criteria.
Five water companies are currently using some of their own profits to help fund social tariffs, which rely heavily on customer cross-subsidies. CCW wants the rest of the industry to join Welsh Water, Severn Trent, Yorkshire Water, SES Water and United Utilities in putting their hand in their own pocket.
Mike Keil, Chief Executive of CCW, said:
Almost a fifth of households say they struggle to pay their water bill and these rises will heap even greater pressure on low-income customers. If water companies are serious about rebuilding trust in the sector they should use some of their profits to help people who cannot afford another bill rise.
The water industry made a commitment five years ago to end water poverty in England and Wales and it needs to keep that promise. Crisis-hit households need immediate relief and the long-term security of knowing they can afford something as essential as water, without having to make painful sacrifices.
CCW remains committed to campaigning for fairer and more consistent support for households that cannot afford their water bill. Our independent review of water affordability in 2021 revealed existing water company social tariff schemes had made a positive impact in supporting struggling households. But they have also created a ‘postcode lottery’ of support due to significant variations in eligibility criteria and funding.
The review proposed the creation of a single social tariff for England and Wales to provide more consistent and better targeted support for those most in need.
There are steps that households can take to dilute the impact of rising water bills and access support if they are struggling to pay. These include:
- Trial a water meter. Around 40% of households in England and Wales still not do not have a meter and some of these would benefit from switching. Not everyone will save with a meter but water companies will usually give you two years to trial one and switch back if you’re unhappy. Unless you live in a region where metering is compulsory. Our water meter calculator can help you work out if you might save.
- Reduce your use to save water, energy and money. Much of the water we use in the home comes from the hot tap. That means if you have a water meter you can double up on water and energy savings too. If every person in a family of four reduced their daily shower time by two minutes they could save around £280 a year (water and energy combined).
- See if you’re eligible for a cut-price social tariff. All water companies offer cheaper tariffs to low-income customers. The service customers receive while on these tariffs remains the same. Eligibility and the level of support varies from company to company but the average annual saving in 2022-23 was around £151. CCW has a guide to social tariffs on its Help with Bills online hub.
- Use our Benefits Calculator to see if you can boost your income. CCW’s website features a calculator provided by charity Turn2Us which can help you work out whether you could be missing out on means-tested benefits. Last year almost 6,400 people used the Benefits Calculator and identified they may be eligible for annual benefits totalling more than £50 million.