Household water bills in the UK will rise to record levels from April, putting further pressure on families struggling with the rising cost of living.
The average water and sewerage bill will rise from £356 to £376, an above-inflation increase of 5.7 per cent. Ofwat, the water regulator, announced the increases which come on top of hefty price hikes for gas and electricity prices announced last November.
Even though three of the big six energy suppliers announced 5 percent reductions in gas and electricity prices in January, that was nothing compared to the 15 percent hikes seen during November last year. The water price hikes come at a time when pay freezes spread across both the public and private sector, meaning real-term pay cuts of more than 3.5 percent as salaries simply fail to keep pace with inflation, reports Wales Online. The average salary for a full-time worker in the UK rose 1.4 percent in 2011 against a headline CPI (Consumer Price Index) inflation rate of 5% or higher.
The UK has 22 water companies, they are permitted to increase prices only on April 1 each year, following guidelines issued by Ofwat (Office of the Water Regulator). The rises have attracted criticism from UK opposition Labour Party, Mary Creagh, the shadow environment secretary, she said the crippling rise in bills shows that the (coalition) Government is “out of touch” with families, already facing rising living costs and falling disposable incomes, reports Telegraph Money.
Consumer groups have also condemned the water hikes. Ann Robinson, director of consumer policy at Uswitch.com, said:
Yet again the relentless drain on our finances will leave households fighting for air.
Despite Ofwat's role as regulator of the water companies and protector of consumers and customers' interests, the body has defended the increases.