Letter: In control of bills

I AM WRITING in response to the letter from Mr Pilbeam (February 16) about Southern Water.

People on a water meter tend to use about ten per cent less water, so we are installing water meters for the majority of our customers across the South East to make sure we can continue to supply quality drinking water to a region officially defined as ‘water stressed’ by the Government.

The vast majority of our customers agree that paying for the amount of water they use, as measured by a water meter, is the fairest way to charge and puts them in control of their bills.

As households move to metered charges, about half will see their bills go down and half will see an increase in their water bills.

This is because at the moment, water bills are based on the rateable value of the house, whereas on a meter they are based on the amount of water people use.

Working closely with our customers we have developed two new tariffs to help people adjust to having a meter and being on metered charges, and to ensure that water bills remain affordable:

* Changeover tariff – any increase in a customer’s bills will be phased in gradually over two years to give people time to adjust to their metered charges and understand how to manage their water use and bills.

* Support tariff – we have introduced this tariff to help customers whose bills go up on a water meter and who have genuine difficulty in paying.

Our five year metering programme is a part of a wider £1.8bn investment programme to 2015 to deliver service and environmental improvements for our region, helping to boost the local economy and support thousands of jobs.

While our charges for 2012-13 have risen to meet the enormous cost of our investment, we have worked hard to ensure that those increases are kept to a minimum.

As a result of customers on a meter only paying for what they use, the average 2012-13 metered water bill for Southern Water customers is £57 lower than for those who are not metered - £391 compared with £448.

Our regulator Ofwat sets out how much water companies can spend and how much they can charge customers.

Customers can log on to our website www.southernwater.co.uk/metering for more information on the metering programme, or call the Metering Contact Centre on 0333 2003 012.

DARREN BENTHAM

Director of metering, Southern Water

Yeoman Road, Worthing