as widely expected, it announces plans to ratchet up prices to an
unacceptable level over the next five years, WaterVoice said today.
the end of next week, could reveal that initial figures announced
last autumn (of a£72, or 31% increase in average water bills on top
of inflation between 2005 and 2010) were an under-estimate.
Since then, the government has published its Principal Guidance to
Ofwat which clarifies many of the uncertain costs that most companies
excluded from their draft business plans. For example, the
government has increased the number of rivers and still waters
designated under the Freshwater Fish Directive that according to the
government's own figures could cost water companies - and their
Maurice Terry, WaterVoice chairman, said: 'The effects of price
rises, on this scale, would be to worsen the water industry's
mounting debt problems and provoke public resentment against the
water industry, against the environmental lobby and against the
'Many customers are already struggling to pay their bills and with
water prices set to rise significantly over the next five years,
there will be many more people who will find themselves in debt for
the very first time.'
Mr Terry added: 'There is not only a limit to what customers can pay,
but also to what they consider is acceptable to pay. Unless the
companies, regulators and government take quick and effective action,
the outcome of the price review risks causing council tax type
WaterVoice has urged customers to get involved in the remainder of
the 2004 price review by airing their views over the next few months
on the water companies' final proposals. WaterVoice committees will
also meet in public in their regions in May and/or July.
Mr Terry said: 'The publication of final business plans represents a
great opportunity for customers to influence debate on the size of
future water bills.
'We encourage water customers to make their voice heard by attending
one of our regional WaterVoice committee meetings, or by writing to,
e-mailing or telephoning their regional WaterVoice office.'
1. The director general of water services (Ofwat) will set price
limits for the five years 2005-10 later this year. As part of this
process, water companies submitted to Ofwat draft business plans in
August 2003 and final business plans in April 2004. Based on his
analysis of these business plans, the director will issue draft
determinations on 5 August 2004 with final determinations issued on
2 December 2004.
2. Customers will have another opportunity to have their say when
Ofwat publishes its draft determinations of price limits in August.
3. WaterVoice provides a strong and independent voice for all
customers of the water and sewerage companies in England and Wales.
4. WaterVoice operates through nine regionalcommittees in England
and a committee for Wales. They represent the interests of customers
in respect of price, service and value for money; they also
investigate complaints from customers about their water company.
5. The ten WaterVoice committee chairmen form the WaterVoice Council.
The WaterVoice Council and its sub-groups deal with issues at
national and European level.