Water company pledges to keep bills affordable

United Utilities outreach manager, Carole Quinn, discusses the company’s payment assistance schemes with Andrea Ratcliffe of Nelson Citizens Advice Bureau.

North West water company United Utilities said today it would keep customers’ bills in line with inflation next year.

Furthermore, if regulator Ofwat accepts the company’s business plan, bills will be kept below inflation between 2015 and 2020.

Steve Mogford, Chief Executive Officer, said, “This will be some good news for our customers amid the economic gloom.

“We can’t control inflation but we can control the basic bill. We have listened to our customers. They have told us their household budgets are under pressure and keeping their water bill affordable is one crucial way we can help.”

Included in United Utilities’ business plan for 2015 to 2020 is a £3.8bn package of improvements for the region’s water and sewerage infrastructure.

Mr Mogford said, “We’re building on nearly 25 years of investment since privatisation which has delivered real improvements in tap water quality and the environment. Our focus is shifting over the next five years more on wastewater improvements which, through the work with our partners, is good news for bathing waters and North West tourism.

“The investment we’re proposing will boost the region’s economy and directly support thousands of jobs in the construction business. And we’re planning to deliver all this by the end of the decade and still keep bills below inflation,” he added.

Since 2011 United Utilities has talked to around 27,000 customers to help develop its plans for Ofwat. An independent Customer Challenge Group questioned and tested United Utilities’ plans to make sure they met customers’ expectations.

Mr Mogford said: “Customers told us their priority is a safe, reliable water supply at a reasonable cost, and we’ve challenged ourselves to deliver that. Customers also said they expected us to provide help, support and a range of payment options for those in financial need.

“We are putting an additional £5m into our independent trust fund to help customers who struggle to pay. We will also be helping over 100,000 customers back into paying their bill through support and assistance schemes whilst developing a social tariff for those in greatest need.”

The company submits its business plan for 2015-2020 to Ofwat on December 2. The water regulator is then expected to announce its decision later in 2014.

United Utilities supplies seven million people in the North West of England with water and wastewater services.

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