Luke Pollard MP

Labour & Co-operative MP for Plymouth Sutton and Devonport

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Government must act over higher water bills

water.jpg Government Water Bill does little to tackle water poverty warns Labou

Commenting on the Second Reading of the Government’s Water Bill in the House of Commons, Luke Pollard, Labour’s Parliamentary Candidate in Plymouth Sutton and Devonport said:

“The Government’s Water Bill does nothing to tackle the rising cost of water, which is adding to the cost of living crisis. This legislation is a wasted opportunity to introduce measures to help those struggling with the cost of their water and to toughen the regulatory regime. Despite David Cameron’s promises that DEFRA would be bringing forward measures on the cost of water, in reality all that Owen Paterson has done is to write to the water companies urging them not hike bills next year

"Linda Gilroy, Plymouth's former Labour MP, was a brilliant champion for water customers in Plymouth but since Mr Colvile won in 2010 he has only mentioned water bills a few times in the Commons. Isn't it time he started speaking up for his constituents against high water bills? He could start by ensuring that there's proper action on water bills in this piece of legislation not just warm words that will do little to bring down bills in Plymouth

“The South West already has the highest water bills in the country due to a botched Tory privatisation in the 1980s. This new water bill does little to help water bill payers in the westcountry. In the south west we have been dealing with the consequences of high water bills for decades. The Government is pushing through legistlation to look like they’re doing something when the reality is bills will continue to rise in the south west putting more pressure on household budgets

“Labour believes that there should be a national affordability scheme to help those struggling with their bills, funded by the water companies from their excessive profits, ending the current postcode lottery. In addition, Ofwat needs to be given stronger powers to intervene when monopoly water providers fail to cut bills.”

More than 2,000 people in Plymouth have no signed Labour’s peition to call for a price freeze on gas and electricity prices. 

More than 2 million households in England and Wales are forced to spend more than 5% of their household income on the cost of water. The Government’s voluntary approach, by which water companies can choose whether to offer a ‘social tariff’, has resulted in only three water companies offering a scheme, assisting fewer than 25,000 consumers nationally.


Editor’s Notes: 

1.   Labour will seek to amend the Government’s Water Bill during the Committee Stage of its scrutiny by MPs. Labour’s amendments would: 

·          - introduce a new national affordability scheme to require all water companies to help those struggling with their bills, ending the current postcode lottery whereby companies choose whether to offer a ‘social tariff’ and the sets the criteria for eligibility.

·          - strengthen the powers of Ofwat, the industry regulator, to intervene when monopoly water providers fail to limit price rises or cut bills in circumstances where they have benefitted from better than expected financial circumstances beyond their control.  

2. The House of Commons will debate the Second Reading of the Government’s Water Bill on Monday 25th November 2013.

3. Eleven per cent of households across England and Wales currently spend more than five per cent of their income on water (2.26 million households consisting of 990,000 adults, 730,000 pensioners, 540,000 families with children)

Sources: ‘Affordable for all - How can we help those who struggle to pay their water bills?’ - Ofwat (May 2011)

‘Affordable water: a consultation on the Government’s proposals following the Walker Review of Charging’- DEFRA (April 2011)


4. Up to thirty per cent of an average household bill is estimated to fund the profits of the water companies.

Source: ‘The water industry: a case to answer’ - New Policy Institute (May 2013)

5. There have been real-terms increases in average water bills of almost 50 per cent since privatisation in 1989.

Source: ‘Water bills - are they affordable to all?’ - House of Commons Library (May 2013)


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