AT a time of the year when many customers will receive their annual water bills, I’d like to take this opportunity to explain how we have listened and, as a result, acted to reduce the burden on household budgets.
Over the next six years we plan to cut our profits to help keep water bills as low as possible. This means that this year the average household bill in Yorkshire will only rise in line with inflation to £373, up from an average of £368 last year. Yorkshire’s bills are already among the lowest in the country and we recently asked 30,000 customers about their priorities in terms of what we should spend money on, and how much we should spend.
This is the biggest customer consultation carried out by a water company.
What customers told us was that they still expect the same great service, but that bills should be kept as low as possible. We have acted on what customers told us by promising not only to limit any change in prices to inflation during 2014-15, but by also proposing that we continue to do that for the next five years.
We maintain more than 62,000 miles of pipes (five per cent of which are more than 100 years old), 700 water treatment works and 133 reservoirs, and we do still need to spend money on repairing and maintaining this critical infrastructure. In doing so we create a ripple effect of investment back into the region, which has been calculated by Leeds University to be £93 for every £100 we spend.
Of course this has to be balanced against customers’ ability to pay, which is why we run a range of schemes to help those people who are struggling to make ends meet.
In fact, last year we accepted 10,000 customers onto a scheme we call “Resolve” and rewarded those who kept up with payments by cancelling their debt to a total value of £2.3m. I would like to reassure our customers that we will continue to look for ways to keep our costs and their charges as low as possible in the future as part of our “Blueprint for Yorkshire”.