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How much your water bill could rise by as Ofwat makes decision today | Personal Finance | Finance

How much your water bill could rise by as Ofwat makes decision today | Personal Finance | Finance

Customers in England and Wales are bracing themselves for a potential hike in water bills over the next five years, as they await to hear what companies will do to enhance their services. The regulator Ofwat is set to release its ‘draft determinations’ on Thursday, which will approve or reject firms’ requests for bill increases based on their proposed spending plans, with a final decision due by year-end.

Southern Water has asked for the steepest increase among utility companies, a whopping 73% rise to £727 annually, while Wessex Water has requested a 36% hike to £690 per annum. Thames Water, serving 16 million customers in London and the Thames Valley region, unveiled plans in April to boost spending to a staggering £19.8 billion to upgrade its infrastructure and curb sewage spills.

However, this would mean a hefty 44% increase in customer bills to £627, a proposal that has sparked outrage among consumer groups. The suggested bill hikes come amidst public anger over companies’ rampant pollution of waterways with sewage spills, even as they continue to distribute dividends to shareholders and bonuses to executives a practice Labour has vowed to tackle.

The number of sewage spills into England’s rivers and seas more than doubled in 2023. The Environment Agency reported a shocking 3.6 million hours of spills last year equivalent to around 400 years compared with 1.75 million hours in 2022.

Not a single river in England is deemed to be in good overall health, with beauty spots such as Windermere in the Lake District suffering from sewage spills. This has sparked outrage among campaigners who argue that privatised water companies have prioritised billions of pounds in payouts to shareholders and executive bonuses over adequate investment in the nation’s water infrastructure, reports Wales Online.

However, these utilities highlight their substantial investments.

The significant volume of water lost due to leaks in the system is also a major concern, especially during dry spells when hosepipe bans are imposed on consumers. Recent studies by the University of Greenwich indicate that investors have extracted £85.2bn from 10 water and sewage firms in England and Wales since the industry was privatised over three decades ago.

In recent times, England’s three largest listed water companies Severn Trent, South West Water and United Utilities all increased their dividend payouts this year compared to the previous year. New regulations were implemented last year to ensure that water companies can only distribute dividends if they are deemed to have delivered for both customers and the environment.

Consumer Council for Water’s chief executive, Mike Keil, stated in May that customers wouldn’t stand for future bill increases “unless they see and feel a step change in the service they receive from their water company whether that’s having the confidence to swim at their local beach or experiencing a more reliable water supply. If customers are going to be asked to pay considerably more, they have a right to expect far more in return.”

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