Politics

SNP accused of failing to stop state-owned water utility hiking prices

HOUSEHOLD water bills are to increase by 4.2 per cent from April, Scotland’s state-owned water company has announced.

Scottish Water said the rise was in line with the CPI inflation figure for October last year.

It means the average £375 a year charge will increase by around £15.

Scottish Water, which supplies some 2.6million households with water and sewerage services, also said prices would need to rise further in future years.

Scottish Labour accused the SNP of a “failure to act” over the cost of living, and said Scottish Water could draw on its reserves to keep bills down instead.

The increase by the public company is the latest in a series of price hikes on essential bills contributing to the biggest cost iof living squeeze in three decades.

The cap on household energy bills is due to rise by £693 from April, although the UK and Scottish governments plan to mitigate part of the cost.

Households both sides of the border will get £200 off their bills, and in England homes in bands A to D will also get a £150 rebate on their council tax.

In Scotland, the Government has hinted it might not copy the council tax mechanism, but Nicola Sturgeon has said there will be help to address the cost of living crisis.

The Bank of England yesterday forecast inflation would top 7% this spring.

Net Zero Secretary Michael Matheson said: “We remain committed to supporting people facing issues paying their water bills.

“While UK-wide energy prices rise beyond inflation, in Scotland the increase to water charges for 2022/3 has been set at 4.2% – in line with inflation.

“In developing the charging principles for the industry for 2021-27, ministers took the decision to increase the levels of support for those vulnerable customers who have the most difficulty paying.

“The water charges reduction scheme discount has increased from 25% to 35% – protecting thousands of eligible households from higher charges.

“Households in receipt of the full water charges reduction scheme discount will actually pay less than they did in 2020/21.

“Our average water charges remain lower than the average in other parts of the UK – in 2021/22 the average charge in Scotland is £375, compared to £408 in England and Wales.”

Douglas Millican, chief executive of Scottish Water, said: “We have been recognised as leading in the water sector in the UK on customer service excellence, the quality of Scotland’s drinking water remains very high, and we are investing to protect the environment from pollution.

“Higher levels of investment are needed to protect services now and over the long term, particularly in meeting the challenges of more intense rainfall, flooding, and drought, and reducing carbon emissions.

“We understand there needs to be a balance between the need for higher levels of investment and the financial challenges faced by households at the present time.

“We have set charges at a level that takes account of those challenges while being open and clear that charges will need to increase further in future years.”

But deputy Scottish Labour leader Jackie Baillie said: “Enough is enough.

“I want to be very clear- the SNP have the power to do something about this and are choosing to put up bills.

“Families across Scotland are already struggling to pay their household bills. This week, people are tuning in to the news to see costs are about to spiral out of control while the SNP and Tory governments sit and do little to help.

“Scottish Water is sitting on hundreds of millions of pounds of reserves while putting up the bills. The Scottish Government must stand up for the interests of customers and cap these rising costs.

“There is an SNP majority in Holyrood and the SNP have more Scottish MPs than any other party. They can no longer blame someone else for their failures. It is time for them to wake up to the realities of everyday life and stand up for the people they are supposed to represent.”

Tory MSP Liam Kerr added: “Hard-pressed Scots have been delivered another bitter blow by the SNP increasing water charges.

“With energy bills set to rise this is an extra financial pressure on people who are already struggling to run their homes.

“In the same week as the UK Government handed them £290 million to reduce Council Tax bills, the SNP Government have hit householders with rising water charges. That’s the last thing they need in the middle of a cost-of-living crisis.”

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