UK Water Utilities Blasted For High Bills And Low Spending
By Sara Jerome
The water sector in the U.K. has been making news lately with challenges on various fronts.
For starters, bills are up and infrastructure investment is down.
"Analysis shows that four of the biggest water companies have increased bills by up to a third since 2007-08. Over the same period, investment by the companies has fallen by up to 20 percent, prompting calls for the government to take action," The Telegraph recently reported.
For instance, the U.K.'s largest water and waste water treatment utility, Thames Water, has increased average annual bills by 28 percent over the last six years, up to 354 pounds per year. Meanwhile, the utility dropped capital expenditure by 20 percent over the same period.
Meanwhile, Southern Water raised average bills by 35 percent to 449 pounds per household. But investment dropped by 21 percent during that time.
Yorkshire Water increased by 23 percent to 368 pounds per year. Investment fell 13 percent.
Those figures come from a report by Member of Parliament Charlie Elphicke. In an editorial in The Spectator, Elphicke said the real problem is that these utilities are using tax credits but not increasing investment.
"It is unacceptable because water is both regulated and a public service monopoly. They don’t use their tax avoidance proceeds to increase investment as they like to claim. Investment has in fact been falling. The regulator, OFWAT, should immediately launch a review into these practices and order the tax avoiders to cut water bills," he said.
The water industry in the U.K. has earned a drop in complaints, but utilities are earning bad press on that front, too. Frustration over billing, accounting for 56 percent of the complaints, ran high.
"Nearly 151,000 people in England and Wales wrote to their supplier to complain in the year up to March, a 7.4 percent drop on the previous year. It’s still less than last year’s reduction when complaints were cut by 12.4 percent," EnergyLiveNews reported.
The watchdog group Consumer Council For Water (CCW) gathered the report. Despite the drop in complaints, the group was less than thrilled with the results.
The Guardian pointed out that "the CCW remained concerned that the number of complaints has not dropped to the level that they were before the dramatic rise in consumer dissatisfaction began. On average, water companies are only part way through what the Consumer Council for Water sees as a much-needed recovery, as complaints are still 33 percent higher than in 2004."
Image credit: "Thames Water," © 2010 swanksalot, used under an Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/