Customers of South West Water who were forced to pay the highest water bills in the country are expected to receive a £50 rebate, promised to them almost two years ago.
The water company announced it would be issuing a £50 customer subsidy to its customers following a long campaign by MPs who claimed customers in the south west of England had been ‘penalised’ for their location. These customers were made to pay the UK’s highest water charges due to the vast coastline and the enhanced cost of treating sewage that would have otherwise been thrown into the sea.
Data from water industry regulator Ofwat showed that the average bill for customers in the South West Water area was a massive £517. By contrast, those in London and the south-east of England whose water is supplied by Thames Water pay just £319 on average. These are said to be the cheapest areas in the UK.
According to Chris Loughlin, chief executive of South West Water, the company had long been working closely with MPs of all parties within the area, as well as consumer groups and local media to expose the unfair situation of the south west region’s residents. The decision to issue customers with a £50 rebate paid directly from the Treasury was eventually reached at the end of 2011.
Although it was said that customers would not see their subsidy until early 2013, the decision was nevertheless a triumphant outcome for South West Water and its customer base.
Chief executive Chris Loughlin at the time said:
“This is great news for our customers. We are delighted the government is committed to tackling the unfairness which has seen 3% of the UK’s population pay for the clean-up of 30% of the nation’s bathing waters.
“Now we look forward to helping the Government implement this annual reduction from April 2013.”
Ofwat later explained that it was up to the Government regarding which customers would be entitled to receive help with paying their water bills via the ‘public purse’. Ofwat, meanwhile, declared it will be responsible for ensuring that the charges set by South West Water will reflect the discount that was proposed.
By the end of last year, the Government finalised plans to grant all entitled households their £50 subsidy and these will be rolled out from this month onwards. Whilst the long delay certainly isn’t satisfactory, the belated rebate will go some way to create customer experience everyone can be proud of.
In a government statement, Water Minister Richard Benyon said:
“Even in these constrained times it is only fair that we address this historic wrong and give these customers some financial help to ease the burden a little.”
The subsidy will continue to run until the next spending review in 2020.