June 28th 2023.
Households have been warned that water bills may rise by up to 40% in order to tackle climate change and the growing pollution crisis. This news comes as the government is reportedly exploring emergency plans to renationalise Thames Water due to its staggering £14 billion debt pile.
The water price hikes, to be announced next year, could see annual bills rise from £450 to £680. These changes are the result of a process run by water regulator Ofwat, which has asked England’s water firms to submit plans by October to tackle pollution from sewage. The plans include improving storm overflows discharging in or near designated bathing spots and improving 75% of overflows discharging to high-priority nature sites.
Sir John Armitt, chairman of the National Infrastructure Commission, told the BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that the warnings of a 40% rise in water bills are ‘probably not unrealistic’. He further explained that by 2050, the Environment Agency and the water companies believe that about £50 billion needs to be invested in order to get sewage overflows down to an acceptable level.
Ministers are also said to be in talks about the possibility of temporarily bringing the utility company back into public hands under a so-called special administration regime. This is to safeguard the water services for 15 million people in London and the South East, which has been facing heavy criticism due to leaks, sewage contamination, and shareholder dividends.
The current chief executive Sarah Bentley resigned in May after the company’s environmental and customer performance suffered. Despite giving up her bonus, Ms Bentley had still managed to double her pay to £1.5 million. Gary Carter, a national officer at the GMB union, had called it ‘nothing more than a flimsy PR stunt’.
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