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Water: Low Incomes

Volume 481: debated on Tuesday 21 October 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) what steps the Government have taken to assist low income families with paying their water bills; (227811)

(2) what steps the Government have taken to assist low income families in reducing water bills.

The Government are aware of concerns about the level of water charges and the issue of affordability is one which the Government take very seriously. The cross-Government review of water affordability in December 2004 recommended:

the vulnerable groups regulations should be extended to increase eligibility. Since publication the regulations have been extended to include children under 19 and in full-time education and a more inclusive list of qualifying medical conditions;

a local pilot scheme on water affordability should be carried out. The pilot study is complete and the results are available on DEFRA's website;

companies should spread and deliver best practice. DEFRA has worked closely with the Consumer Council for Water and other stakeholders to encourage best practice by companies in administrating the vulnerable groups tariff; and

studying the effects of the charging system. DEFRA has been working closely with water companies and Ofwat to look at the likely distributional consequences of a range of tariffs for water consumers and will report to Ministers later this year.

In August 2008 DEFRA launched an independent review of water charging and metering, which is led by Anna Walker and will look in particular at social, economic and environmental concerns. The review is due to conclude in spring 2009.