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Water UK comment on the National Infrastructure Plan

The Government’s National Infrastructure Plan published today has highlighted the crucial contribution that investing in infrastructure will make to long term economic growth in the UK.

Water companies are already delivering the Government’s commitments set out in the Plan for maintaining investment, driving greater efficiencies, keeping bills affordable and protecting vulnerable groups.

Water companies have continued to invest billions every year to protect existing and create new infrastructure assets such as mains and sewers. The companies also spend billions each year on operating costs such as staff, services, power and chemicals. Many are also ensuring they do more to smooth investment cycles, which gives greater certainty to the supply chain and in turn benefits customers.

The water sector’s ongoing investment is bringing major public health and environmental benefits – drinking water quality in the UK is among the best in the world and our rivers and beaches are cleaner than they have been for decades.

The total economic impact of the water sector to the UK’s economy was £15bn in 2012/13. This activity supported more than 127,000 jobs directly or indirectly. In 2012/13, companies spent £4.5 billion on investing in assets and £5 billion on operating costs.

On Monday (2 December), companies set out their plans for 2015-2020, with billions of pounds more of investment so people in the UK can count on safe, reliable water and sewerage services. Almost all companies will deliver this while holding down their bills to keep them in line with or lower than inflation.

Although water bills comprise less than 1% of household expenditure, water companies continue to help all hard-pressed UK households through charging stable and affordable prices and have a wide range of social assistance measures to help people who are struggling to afford their water bills.

Many water companies have set up and contribute to social funds and charitable trusts which have helped hundreds of thousands of customers in need. Others write off amounts of customers’ debt if they demonstrate consistent efforts to bring down their arrears, or give customers free access to debt and money advice and give financial support to Citizens Advice bureaux.

More than 70,000 people in England are already on the current national social tariff Watersure, which caps bills for some metered customers who are on means-tested benefits. In Wales 54,000 are either on the Welsh Water Assist tariff which is based on the Watersure tariff but set at a lower rate and extended to unmeasured customers, or benefit from other forms of social assistance.

In their business plans, many companies have confirmed they will introduce additional social tariffs, to make bills affordable for even more of their customers under financial pressure, and other companies also already have additional schemes to help those who have difficulty in paying.