THE average water and sewerage bill is set to fall by 2% in 2021-22 the only not-for-profit water company in England and Wales has announced.
Welsh Water, which serves most of Wales, Herefordshire and parts of Deeside, has confirmed that the average household bill will be lower in real terms than in the previous year despite the additional financial pressures placed on it during the COVID-19 pandemic. The company has invested an extra £20million responding to the pandemic.
The average bill for 2021 – 2022 will be £446.82 and represents the twelfth consecutive year the company has kept the increase at or below the rate of inflation – the only water company in England and Wales to have achieved this. The new bill will be £96 lower in real terms compared to the 2009 – 2010 bill.
The company, providing water and wastewater services to over three million customers, has played a key role in protecting public health during the pandemic with operational colleagues maintaining its vast water and wastewater networks. It also further ramped up support for customers by arranging flexible payment plans for household customers struggling to pay their water bills. As a result, the company is now supporting 139,000 customers through its range of affordability tariffs – which is more than any other water company.
Furthermore, it temporarily added an additional 330,00 customers to its Priority Services Register. The company also recognised the impact of the pandemic on its business customers and temporarily suspended charges to around 45,000 businesses affected by the first UK lockdown.
Welsh Water has also provided £300,000 to community projects through its Community Fund, including £106,000 to 106 food banks (through the Trussell Trust), 105 community projects and other partnerships with BITC Cymru, Community Foundation Wales and Prince’s Trust Cymru.
In response to the pandemic, Welsh Water rapidly expanded its remote working technology to allow its entire contact centre to move to home working in March, and also started “virtual inspections” to support customers to resolve issues without needing to go to their property. These new ways of working have enabled the company to retain its position as the only water company to appear in the top 50 companies of the Institute of Customer service’s UK Customer Satisfaction Index.
The company has also continued with its commitment to invest in new talent. This has included recruiting over 30 new apprentices over the year with this set to continue over the coming years.
Welsh Water’s Chief Executive Peter Perry said: “Despite what can probably best be described as the most challenging years we have faced, I’m proud that we’ve been able to continue with our record of keeping price increases for the average household bill below the rate of inflation. It also reflects the strength and benefit of our operating model which means we are able to meet these kinds of challenges while at the same time keeping bills affordable for customers. We’ve also been able to continue with our planned investment programme and over the course of the year we will have invested £346 million improving services to customers and protecting our valuable environment. We are also expecting to invest £367 million in the coming year.
“We do appreciate however that the great economic uncertainty the pandemic has brought with it and that there undoubtedly will be tough times ahead. That is why we already offer a range of assistance tariffs for anyone genuinely struggling to pay and I would urge anyone worried about paying their bill to get in touch so we can see what assistance can be provided”.
Rhodri Williams, Chair of CCW Wales, said: “It will come as a relief to struggling households that the average bill will fall but we must not lose sight of the fact that many customers are still missing out on financial assistance that could help see them through Covid-19.”
“Water is often overlooked when it comes to saving money but trialling a water meter for up to two years or seeing if you’re eligible for Welsh Water’s HelpU tariff if you’re on a low income could potentially shave hundreds of pounds off your annual bill.”