Swindon politicians call on Ofwat to stop price increase on water
9:47am Wednesday 4th December 2013 in News
SWINDON politicians are calling on Ofwat to block a planned price hike of £50 a year per customer for Thames Water to complete an £8bn infrastructure project.
Under the proposals, £2.8bn would be spent on upgrading the Thames Tideway Tunnel to modernise London’s sewage network.
Smaller local projects include upgrading the sewer network to cope with the increased pressure which would result from the Eastern Development in Swindon, which would cater for the 60,000 extra residents in the town by 2026.
But the plans have been rebuffed as unacceptable, as they are seen to be a national subsidy for London.
Coun Julian Price (Lab, Covingham and Dorcan), moved a motion at council in September for Ofwat to take action against planned price rises.
“I welcome the fact that Thames Water have detailed the way they would like to spend their price increases,” he said. “What they haven’t said is how much they plan to make in profits in future years, and that is where my concern lies.
“Last year Thames Water posted profits of £549m, so if they plan to continue this level of profit-making that’s a lot of money that could be going towards helping Thames Water’s customers’ bills rather than going to Thames Water’s international shareholders.
“I think this matter will be a defining moment for the water regulator and whether they can stand up for customers against excessive corporate profit-making.
“I really hope they do the right thing.
“Until Thames Water can show that they will be using their profits to help average householders’ bills, Ofwat should block the water company’s planned above-inflationary price increases.”
South Swindon MP Robert Buckland, said: “Thames Water’s proposals fly in the face of reality.
“While other water companies are proposing lower rises and even cuts in some cases, residents face an unacceptable hike.
“I hope that Ofwat comes to the view that this proposal is unjustified.”
A spokesman for Thames Water said: “We carry out investment across our region wherever it is needed, whether upgrading a tiny rural sewage works serving 100 people, or a major London works serving many millions.
“The cost of these investments is spread across the entire customer base. That is the fairest way to do it.”
Martin Baggs, chief executive of Thames Water, said: “We have spoken in depth to many thousands of our customers in developing this plan.
“It is encouraging that more than seven out of ten find it acceptable.
“It is clear that bill increases are only acceptable if they are absolutely essential, but customers have told us to avoid storing up problems for the future.
“We recognise that affordability is a significant problem.
“For customers genuinely struggling to pay their bills, we can and will do more to help.
“We are increasing the number of ways in which we will assist next year, bringing in important measures which were originally planned for 2015 and onwards.”
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