WATER bills across Merseyside will rise by an inflation-busting 5.3% from April.
The increase – 2.3% above inflation – will mean the annual family bill locally rising by £19 to £377.
That is £35 more than the average UK bill of £342. The rises will come into effect on April 1 and apply for the next 12 months.
Nationally, water bills will rise by an average of 4.1%.
Dame Yve Buckland, chairwoman of the Consumer Council for Water, said: “Any price increase will be a concern for customers in the current economic climate, and we recognise that many customers may struggle.”
Warrington-based United Utilities (UU) agreed the price rise with the regulator Ofwat in 2004, as part of their five-year plan which ends in 2010.
Regina Finn, Ofwat chief executive officer, said: “We needed to make some tough decisions back in 2004. Investment was vital but we needed to balance this with keeping customers’ bills around £100 lower than they would otherwise have been.
“No-one wants to see bills increasing, particularly in tough economic times. Yet over the last 20 years we have made sure that this essential investment has delivered very real benefits for us all.
“The River Mersey was once branded the most polluted river in Western Europe – now it is home to breeding salmon, with octopus found in the estuary.”
Discussions are already under way between UU and Ofwat to set price limits for the next five years.
Last August, UU proposed rises of 11% above inflation but the Consumer Council for Water labelled the plans “unacceptable” and said price hikes would make water unaffordable for many customers.
United Utilities:£377; up 5.3%
Anglian Water: £393; up 4.6%
Yorkshire Water: £328; up 4%
Thames Water: £295; up 2.4%
Northumbria Water: £298; up 2.2%
Severn Trent Water: £304; up 5%
South West Water: £489; up 0.9% THE LIVERPOOL ECHO