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Cornwall's Water Bills Set to Fall

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4:52am 15th December 2014
(Updated 4:52am 15th December 2014)

It looks like we could be paying less for our water in Cornwall.

The regulator has told companies how much they can charge families over the next five years.

Under Ofwat's figures, the average combined bill for South West Water customers will fall 7% before inflation, from £545 this year to £506 by 2020.

That does not include the £50 a year contribution from the government.

Ofwat says customers will see improved levels of service too.

Across the UK, we are being told that companies are set to spend more than £44 billion or around £2000 for every household in England and Wales over the next five years.

By 2020 customers will benefit from substantial improvements in areas of service that really matter to them, including:

More than 370 million litres a day saved by tackling leakage and promoting water efficiency – enough water saved to serve all of the homes in Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds;
A reduction in the time lost to supply interruptions (down on average 32%);
4,700 fewer properties flooded by sewer water;
Cleaner water at more than 50 beaches.

The number of people benefiting from financial support will more than double to around 1.8 million by 2020. Currently around 760,000 people benefit from some form of financial support from their water company. Over the next five years, companies are putting in place measures, such as social tariffs, which are forecast to help an additional one million people.

Following direct engagement with a quarter of a million customers across England and Wales, companies submitted their plans to Ofwat in December 2013, proposing bills drop by almost 2% in real terms. Ofwat has worked with companies since then to deliver a further £3 billion savings for customers. This means average bills will be going down by 5% in real terms, and these savings will also help reduce bills after 2020. As well as challenging on price, Ofwat has also made sure companies are stretching themselves on service. This includes larger reductions in supply interruptions, pollution incidents, and further improvements to drinking water quality.

Ofwat's announcement includes the decision to lower further the weighted average cost of capital (WACC), which is the minimum rate of return that lenders or investors require to support investment in the sector. Since its initial proposal of a WACC of 3.85%, Ofwat has updated its decision to reflect current market evidence on required returns, resulting in a WACC of 3.74%.

Jonson Cox, Chairman of Ofwat said: "This is an important step in maintaining customers' trust and confidence in the water sector. We set out to deliver a challenging but fair outcome. We are requiring companies to meet higher service standards and deliver on their promises to customers. We are bringing down bills so customers can expect value for money, while investors can earn a fair return. Companies will need to stretch themselves to deliver much more with the same level of funding as in previous years. We will achieve more resilient infrastructure and better service as a result."

Cathryn Ross, Chief Executive of Ofwat said: "With bills held down by five per cent and service driven up over the next five years, customers will get more and pay less. Where companies stepped up to do the best they could for their customers we did not need to intervene. But where companies fell short we stepped in to make sure customers get a good deal. Now the hard work begins. Companies will only build trust and confidence with their customers if they deliver. Those who do can look forward to fair returns, while those that don’t will be hit in the pocket and face a tough five years ahead."

New charges will come into effect in April 2015. Companies have two months in which to accept Ofwat's final determination, or seek a referral to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).

4:52am 15th December 2014

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