£2.2 billion outstanding from unpaid water bills in England/Wales
An increase in unpaid bills across England and Wales is putting up the price of household bills, according to new research...
An increase in unpaid bills across England and Wales is putting up the price of household bills, according to new research.
Regulator Ofwat’s ‘Affordability and debt’ report said the cost associated with unpaid bills is around £21 a year for every household – an increase from £17 in 2009/10.
Furthermore, it found that £2.2 billion unpaid revenue is now outstanding.
Ofwat called on utilities to do more to prevent the problem by helping low income households who are struggling to pay their bills.
The report said that even if drinking water and wastewater bills are being kept down, changes in income and the cost of other essential services going up has put added pressure on households’ budgets.
Meanwhile industry body Water UK said over 250,000 customers are now on special assistance registers.
Between 2015-2016, it’s estimated that water utilities will provide £40 million to support customers who are struggling to pay or are in debt.
In response to the Ofwat report, it added that: “As part of their package of affordability support measures, all water companies currently either have social tariffs already in place, or are on track to implement a social tariff in 2016.”
According to the debt charity StepChange, the number of people needing help to manage their debts has risen by 56% since 2012. And the proportion of customers contacting National Debtline with issues related to water bill debt has increased by almost 10% in the last five years.
The report showed that the availability and quality of help for customers varies significantly across companies, according to Ofwat.
Cathryn Ross, chief executive atOfwat, said: “This important research highlights that while three quarters of customers think their water services are good value there is a growing problem that more customers are not paying their bill.
“Some companies need to get better at collecting unpaid bills from those customers who can pay but don’t. Yet this report is clear that many households are feeling the squeeze and need support. While some companies are improving how they respond to these customers, others have to get better at identifying those at risk and helping those who are genuinely struggling.”