The Consumer Council for Water (CCW), has led an independent review into the affordability of water on behalf of the UK and Welsh governments, unveiling their proposals to end water poverty in a new report.
In line with common approaches, the review defined those in water poverty as spending more than 5 per cent of their income on water bills after housing costs.
Emma Clancy, Chief Executive of the Consumer Council for Water (CCW), commented on the findings: “We have a golden opportunity to create a simpler and fairer system and end the indignity of people skipping meals or other essentials to pay their water bill.
“Many people are craving certainty in these difficult times and these proposed changes would give millions of households one less thing to worry about and greater peace of mind – whatever the future holds.”
The review found that 5 out of 6 customers who cannot afford their water bill were not receiving the help they need, despite a significant rise in water company support schemes over the past decade.
According to the authors, this is because some of these schemes remained hampered by insufficient funding and large regional variations in eligibility criteria – creating a ‘postcode lottery’ of help.
One of the key recommendations to overcome this introduced in the report would be to create a single social tariff for England and Wales that would ensure no-one ever has to spend more than 5 per cent of their income – after housing costs – on water bills.
According to the report authors, would end the patchwork of support provided by different water company schemes.
The report suggests that a single social tariff would ensure people received consistent and fair support based on their income and need, not where they live.
Those that were eligible would reportedly benefit from an average bill reduction of £190.
According to the authors, the scheme could be funded through public expenditure or a customer cross-subsidy.
The industry would be expected to continue to help fund a wider range of measures designed to prevent at least 3 million more households on the cusp of crisis slipping into water poverty.
These would include giving water customers greater choice and control over how they pay their water bill using the latest technologies and providing more tailored financial help.
According to the authors, many of the recommendations in the report could be rolled out immediately with the support of water companies and a number of pilot schemes are already in the pipeline.
The independent review was supported by new research from several sources, including Sheffield Hallam University Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research, DJS Research and Yonder.
The Independent Review of Water Affordability is available on the CCW website.