• More vulnerable customers will receive more support than ever through social tariffs
• Households in Swansea with total annual income of £15,000 or less can apply for help
• Price increases for most households held at RPI inflation rate or lower for the eighth consecutive year
Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water has announced an extra £4 million of financial support for customers struggling to pay their water and wastewater bills. From April 2017, households across Swansea who are accepted onto our unique HelpU tariff, are able to have their annual bills capped at £190 per year.
The extra funding for the company’s HelpU tariff will be made available as a result of Welsh Water’s Have Your Say public consultation in the summer of 2016. The consultation on how any future profit created by the company should be used for the benefit of customers attracted an unprecedented 12,000 customer responses, with results showing strong support from a majority of customers for increasing the support given to customers who genuinely struggle to pay their water bills.
The company currently helps around 65,000 customers who genuinely struggle to pay their water bills and plans to increase this to 100,000 or more by 2020.
This new investment is on top of the £340m that is being invested in capital projects in this financial year and the additional £32million investment announced in June 2016 as a result of the company’s unique not-for-profit ownership structure.
This latest announcement follows independent research from the Consumer Council for Water (CCWater), showing Welsh Water was the best-rated water and sewerage company in England and Wales on value for money and satisfaction across drinking water and wastewater services.
Separate CCWater research also revealed business customers in Wales were significantly more likely to say they are satisfied with all aspects of their water supply than those in England, as well as showing significantly higher levels of trust. Welsh Water is committed to building on this strong foundation by making further improvements to the services it provides its business customers.
Customers who are struggling to pay their water bills are encouraged to contact Welsh Water directly or via a wider range of partner organisations (including Citizen’s Advice Bureau, StepChange and registered social landlords). Some customers could also reduce their water bills by installing a water meter, so they are billed for what they are using – with Welsh Water’s easy-to-use Water Meter Calculator available to help customers see how much they could be charged. If they switch, but feel that installing a meter hasn’t met their expectations, customers still have a two-year period in which they can switch back to their previous charging method.
Welsh Water Chief Executive Chris Jones said: “Our innovative public consultation with our customers showed there was strong support for helping people who find it toughest to make ends meet – so we are very pleased to announce this £4 million in additional support.
“Supporting our most vulnerable customers – along with pursuing those who could pay, but do not – benefits all our customers, ensuring our service offers good value-for-money.
“We will continue to support our lowest-earning households by working with agencies including housing associations, local authorities and debt advice centres to promote this scheme and ensure that those who struggle the most can access this support quickly and easily.”
The additional investment is confirmed as Water UK announces the average increases in water bills for customers in England and Wales for 2017-18. Welsh Water has confirmed the average household bill for 2017-18 will be £439, compared to £437 in 2016-2017 – an increase of less than 0.5%.
Tom Taylor, CCWater’s Wales Chair, said: “We’re pleased Welsh Water is keeping the level of bill increase so low, while also expanding its support for customers who are struggling to pay their water bills.”
“We’d also really encourage customers to look into whether they might be better off on a water meter by using the free calculator on the Welsh Water website or our own. Households now have up to two years to trial a meter and switch back if they’re not saving money or are unhappy with it.”
Carolyn Harris, Swansea East MP said: “I welcome the announcement today that Welsh Water is investing more to support low-income households across Swansea, alongside the commitment that bills won’t exceed inflation for the eighth year in a row.
“I would urge people across Swansea who earn £15,000 or less to get in touch with Welsh Water and find out if they qualify for this support.”