Ofwat turns off water bill hikes

Small businesses are lobbying the water industry regulator to call off proposed huge increases in supply bills.

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) says average payments would rise 29% over the next five years under the plans, although SMEs in some areas may have to absorb 45% increases.

For businesses that use water intensively, like guesthouses, manufacturers and farms, the increases would amount to around £1,160 a year, said the organisation.

It has called on Ofwat, the water regulator, to reel in the price hikes ahead of an announcement on the subject by Phillip Fletcher, director general of Water Services on August 5.

ofwat water billIf approved, the price hikes would come into force on April 5 next year.

FSB environment chairman John Holbrow said: “Although as a percentage of annual turnover these amounts may not be huge, the massive price hikes will still be difficult to stomach.

“Small firms need to carefully budget their outgoings and rely on predictable and stable utility services.

“Moreover, there are large numbers of small firms, such as laundrettes, farmers and restaurants that are high users of water, yet do not have access to the block tariffs afforded to big companies.”

Of the ten water and sewage companies surveyed by the FSB, the highest proposed increase came from Southern Water at 45%. The lowest was from Anglian Water at 17%.

Consumer group Watervoice recently announced that complaints about suppliers had jumped 27% from the year before. It says grumble volumes were now at a five-year high.