I am pleased to announce to the House that today I am consulting on a new strategic policy statement for Ofwat, the economic regulator for the water sector.
Securing a fair deal for everyone is at the core of Ofwat’s role. Research by the Consumer Council for Water in 2015 revealed that 12% of customers said they were struggling to pay their water bills. This Government will set a strategic objective for Ofwat to challenge the water sector to go further to identify and meet the needs of customers who are struggling to afford their charges.
The Government will also set Ofwat a strategic objective to challenge the water sector to plan and invest to meet the needs of current and future customers, in a way which offers best value for money over the long term. By the 2050s England is projected to face a water deficit of 8-22% of total water demand. We need to take action now to ensure we can meet our future water needs in an affordable way.
I am therefore pleased to inform the House that the Government will prepare a national policy statement. This will facilitate development consent for water resources, which currently must be sought from a range of authorities and can involve delays and uncertainty.
The Government will also be directing water companies to quantify their level of resilience and consult on proposed future options that they are exploring to meet their long-term needs. In line with new research from Water UK, we expect the industry to take a balanced approach to meeting these needs, including new supply solutions, demand management and increased water transfers.
The consultation is available at: www.gov.uk and will close on 11 April.