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Household water bills to rise 3.5%
The average household water and sewerage bill in England and Wales is set to increase by 3.5% over the next year, regulator Ofwat has said.
Households will pay an average of £388 from April 2013 to March 2014 - 0.5% above the rate of inflation.
Ofwat chief executive Regina Finn said: "Back in 2009, companies wanted bills rises of 10% above inflation. That didn't chime with what customers told us they wanted, so we said they could only increase bills in line with inflation.
"We understand that there is huge pressure on household incomes, and any rise is unwelcome. Inflation is driving these increases."
"We will make sure customers get value for money and if companies fall short in delivering their investment promises, we will take action," Ms Finn added. "In the past seven years, we have made companies pay out around £550 million where they have underperformed."
The new charges will vary for households depending on their supplier and whether they have a water meter, Ofwat said. The increased bills will help pay for an investment programme worth about £25 billion between 2010 and 2015, the regulator added.
Thames Water will see the biggest percentage rise in water and sewerage bills with an increase of 5.5%, leaving households with an average bill of £354, according to Ofwat. Southern Water bills will rise by 5.3% with an average payment of £449 while households supplied by Wessex Water will face an average bill of £478 - an increase of 4.9%.
Those supplied by South West Water will see bills fall by 7.3% after the Government pledged contributions to reduce each household's bill by £50. However, water and sewerage bills in the region remain the highest in the country, with households paying an average of £499.
Ann Robinson, USwitch director of consumer policy, said: "Ofwat's announcement follows a wave of energy price hikes and will leave many households struggling to stay afloat. Households now face forking out £1,740 a year on energy, water and sewerage alone.
"With incomes remaining stagnant, this will be another squeeze on family finances and will no doubt cause sacrifice and hardship for many. There really is no need to pay over the odds for any household bills and there are a couple of simple but effective steps to help protect yourself from rising prices. While consumers might not have the choice of switching to a cheaper water supplier, they do have the option of moving to a water meter which could save them £54 a year. As a rule of thumb, if there are more bedrooms than people in a household then a water meter could be more cost effective."