Water bills in Brighton and Hove are to rise by an average of 5.3 per cent from April.
Southern Water said today (Tuesday 5 February) that the average bill would be £449 for the coming financial year – an increase of £23.
The rise is the second highest – after Thames – of the ten water and sewerage companies. It means that customers will have the third highest bills. Only South West Water and Wessex intend to charge more.
The company’s most recent full-year financial statement reports a pre-tax profit of £85 million on a turnover of £716 million.
Southern said: “The company’s bills not only cover the day to day running costs of supplying drinking water and taking away and treating wastewater but also contribute to a major capital improvement programme which is taking place from 2010 to 2015.
“At £1.8 billion, it is the equivalent of spending nearly £1,000 for every property in the Southern Water region over the five-year period.
“The programme includes the replacement of hundreds of kilometres of water mains and sewers along with schemes to help prevent flooding, safeguard water supplies, reduce leakage, improve water quality and enhance wastewater treatment.”
The company’s chief customer officer Darren Bentham said: “By ensuring investment in our communities we are able to support thousands of jobs, while delivering improved services and a wide range of environmental improvements such as cleaner rivers and seas.
“Our five-year spending programme includes more than 330 environmental projects – that’s more than any other water company and makes up a large part of our investment.
“These projects are in response to new European legislation and will have many environmental benefits.
“However, it’s a fine balance. While our charges must rise to meet the enormous cost of our investment, we have a duty to our customers to keep our increases to a minimum.”
The rise from April – for the 2013-14 financial year – is 3.3 percentage points above inflation.
The regulator Ofwat has agreed a rise in bills for the year after, 2014-15, of 0.1 percentage points below inflation.
Southern said that it employed more than 2,000 staff, including 50 apprentices and 260 people in its two Sussex-based call centres.
Additionally, the company was indirectly supporting about 2,900 jobs through its capital investment programme.
From 2010 to 2015, Southern is also installing more than 500,000 water meters with homes in Brighton and Hove being fitted at the moment.
The company said: “Customers who have a water meter installed tend to use 10 per cent less water.
“As a result, the average 2013-14 water bill for customers who have a meter is £430.”
Southern said that this was £54 lower than for those who were not metered who paid an average of £484.
Mr Bentham said: “Our metering programme is bringing a fairer charging system by ensuring customers only pay for what they use.
“People who use less water not only reduce their bills but also their energy costs because about 30 per cent of power consumption in homes is associated with using water.”
Southern said that customers who had difficulty paying bills should call 0845 272 0845 for more information.