Ministers attacked over water bill divide

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THE Government has been accused of “missing the point” by wiping £50 off water bills for every customer in the South West while doing nothing to help those struggling to pay in Yorkshire.

Ministers show “little interest” in helping people in Yorkshire and have left residents to face a “postcode lottery” in whether they can afford their bills or not, Labour claimed yesterday.

In a speech in Leeds, Shadow Water Minister Gavin Shuker called for action to make bills more affordable for everyone and ease a cost of living “crisis”.

Yorkshire Water customers are preparing for a 6.1 per cent increase in bills, with the average bill rising by £21 to £361 – just below the national average £376.

The Government recently pledged £35m to reduce historically high bills in the South West, wiping £50 off the average £543 bill from 2013, but has refused to extend a national scheme which caps bills for some poorer customers with water meters and instead called on companies to develop their own “social tariffs” which it argues could be more generous.

“We do accept the argument that the South West requires additional help to keep water affordable, but stopping there misses the point,” said Mr Shuker.

Labour claims rising bills mean more people will be forced into water poverty, which is classed as households who pay more than five per cent of their income on water, but Mr Shuker accused the Government of adopting an attitude that it “can’t do anything to help”.

“Ministers have failed to bring forward any plans to tackle high bills, apart from in one part of the country,” he said.

“The Tory-led Government is out of touch with the reality of families worried about rising household bills.

“That is simply not good enough,” he added.

However the Government insists it is taking action.

In its Water White Paper last year it said it planned to publish guidance to water companies on introducing social tariffs and would consult on ways to get data on who occupies a property to help tackle the problem of bad debt.