South Staffs Water plan allows for low bills and high service to 2020

2 December 2013

Bills sent out by South Staffs Water, which includes Cambridge Water, look set to stay the second lowest average water bills in England and Wales with the only rise expected to be by inflation between 2015 and 2020.

South Staffs Water has the highest levels of service in the industry as reported by Ofwat, the industry regulator, and intends to maintain these high standards going forward.

Water companies throughout the country are today sending their five year business plan covering the period 2015 to 2020 to Ofwat for consideration. The business plans detail investment and service proposals for the period and how the plan will be funded.

SSW's plans have been developed following a major customer engagement programme held over 18 months, in which both household and business customers have informed the Company what they expect to see from SSW. Among the priorities expressed were the continuation of the excellent quality of water, a secure and reliable supply, continued high levels of customer service, bills that were fairly priced and environmentally sustainable operations. SSW has proposed inflation only rises for each of the five years for its average household water bill of £137, along with a £190 million major investment programme to ensure the resilience of its assets and the continued reliability and quality of the water being supplied. This spend includes the refurbishment and replacement of some of its key storage reservoirs and nitrate removal plants.

The Company has proposed inflation only changes with the additional investment to strengthen the resilience of assets and the impact of rising energy costs offset through continued efficiency savings and lower profits.

The Company will also be expanding its Charitable Trust, which operates in the South Staffs region, into the Cambridge region from April 2014. The Trust is funded by contributions from the Company's parent and assists customers who are struggling to pay their water bills.

Further, from 2015 a new fund of £1.5m is proposed to help keep bills affordable for those customers in need by doubling the funding for the existing Charitable Trust and working with specialist agencies to offer debt advice to customers who are struggling to pay their bills, together with support for local environmental and community schemes.

The business plan has seen 4,500 customers, including 800 business customers, consulted during research studies and has received significant support from customers. SSW also established and worked closely with a Customer Challenge Group in both South Staffs and Cambridge, comprising representatives from stakeholders like the Consumer Council for Water, the Drinking Water Inspectorate and the Environment Agency, along with local councillors and businesses.

Adrian Page, Executive Chairman of South Staffs Water, commented: "We believe that our business plan is good for customers both now and in the longer term. It allows for low bills, high service and efficiency through innovation, delivering outcomes that our customers value. The plan has strong customer endorsement and is built upon our current high performance and low bills."