Dan Rogerson MP writes… Welcoming help with water bills in the South West

This week, as part of the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement, details of a Water Bills Rebate Fund were announced, with a £50 rebate to be provided on water bills for households in Cornwall and other South West Water areas from 2013-14. Along with fellow Liberal Democrats, I have long campaigned on getting a fair deal for bill payers in Cornwall after the botched privatisation under the Conservatives in the 1980s left us with the highest water bills in the country, and following 13 years of complacency about the issue under the last Labour government. As such, this rebate is fantastic news and it is great to see the Coalition’s commitment to act being delivered.

Since the privatisation of water in the 80s, bill payers in the South West Water region – which includes Cornwall, Devon and parts of Somerset and Dorset – have had to pay the highest water charges in the country, with annual bills being around £150 more than the national average, at £517. Bills are so high because the way water was privatised meant that people in the South West are responsible for maintaining 30% of the combined coastline of England and Cornwall, despite only making up 3% of the population.

This week’s announcement will be worth £35million annually, with around 700,000 households benefiting. The cut cannot come in before the 2013-14 date as it requires primary legislation to be passed by Parliament in order for it to happen.

I welcome the straightforward and sensible use of the money that was set aside by the Treasury earlier this year to offset the very high costs of water bills in Cornwall, as well as in Devon and parts of Somerset and Dorset. During the Westminster Hall debate which I called, the minister, Richard Benyon said he was “delighted” that the Coalition had been able to take action to provide some relief for families with their bills. He also acknowledged the “exceptional” and “unfair” situation that bill payers in the South West Water area are faced with, and praised the efforts of local campaigners who have fought to make the system fairer over the past twenty years.

The £50 rebate is definitely a step in the right direction, but there is further to go to fully address the problem by helping the poorest customers and making sure water charges are fairer across the whole country.

During Wednesday’s debate I asked the Minister to consider moving from regional schemes to support those on the lowest incomes to a national scheme – thereby providing support for those in water poverty wherever they are in the country.

It is essential that support plans and social tariffs such as the ‘WaterSure’ scheme are delivered in a fair and sustainable way, ensuring that people who are just above the threshold for help, but who are still struggling with astronomical bills, do not end up losing their help with bills in order to fund social tariffs for the very poorest.

For Cornwall, this could ensure that those who will still be paying hugely above-average bills – even with the £50 rebate – could receive much needed financial support.

*Dan Rogerson is the Liberal Democrat MP for North Cornwall


Read more by or more about , or .
This entry was posted in Op-eds.
Advert

One Comment

  • philip Moss 3rd Dec '11 - 10:33am

    Why should we subsidize water bills for the South West?

    Will they subsidize rents in London for us?

    Why not renationalize the water companies and share the current profits going to shareholders?

    For that matter put all utilities under Government ownership , including the railways, where again we pay a subsidy which simply turns into shareholders dividends.

Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

If you are a member of the party, you can have the Lib Dem Logo appear next to your comments to show this. You must be registered for our forum and can then login on this public site with the same username and password.

To have your photo next to your comment please signup your email address with Gravatar.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

*
*
Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?

Advert



Recent Comments

  • Martin
    Alec Macfie raises a very important point about turnout, which links to my comments about electoral legitimacy. Voting in an election that is spurned by major ...
  • theakes
    Peter Martin, History shows you are probably incorrect, Eastbourne displayed that 30 years ago. High turnout and heavy Lib Dem gain. ....
  • John Marriott
    @Mark Vallarades The “Québec libre” quote comes, of course, from President Charles De Gaulle. On a state visit to Canada on the pretext of visiting the Mo...
  • expats
    Every N.I. businessman and trade organisation interviewed by BBC/ITV/CH4/SKY seems happy with the latest EU offer,,An offer made after their negotiator had spen...
  • Alex Macfie
    Marco: Yes, I think you have been watching too many TV series. If tht sort of thing were happening then it would indicate deep-seated problems with our politica...