THE average water and sewerage bill is set to fall by 2% in 2021-22 the only not-for-profit water company in England and Wales has announced.
Welsh Water, which serves most of Wales, Herefordshire and parts of Deeside, has confirmed that the average household bill will be lower in real terms than in the previous year despite the additional financial pressures placed on it during the COVID-19 pandemic. The company has invested an extra £20million responding to the pandemic.
The average bill for 2021 – 2022 will be £446.82 and represents the twelfth consecutive year the company has kept the increase at or below the rate of inflation – the only water company in England and Wales to have achieved this. The new bill will be £96 lower in real terms compared to the 2009 – 2010 bill.
The company, providing water and wastewater services to over three million customers, has played a key role in protecting public health during the pandemic with operational colleagues maintaining its vast water and wastewater networks. It also further ramped up support for customers by arranging flexible payment plans for household customers struggling to pay their water bills. As a result, the company is now supporting 139,000 customers through its range of affordability tariffs – which is more than any other water company.
Furthermore, it temporarily added an additional 330,00 customers to its Priority Services Register. The company also recognised the impact of the pandemic on its business customers and temporarily suspended charges to around 45,000 businesses affected by the first UK lockdown.
Welsh Water has also provided £300,000 to community projects through its Community Fund, including £106,000 to 106 food banks (through the Trussell Trust), 105 community projects and other partnerships with BITC Cymru, Community Foundation Wales and Prince’s Trust Cymru.
In response to the pandemic, Welsh Water rapidly expanded its remote working technology to allow its entire contact centre to move to home working in March, and also started “virtual inspections” to support customers to resolve issues without needing to go to their property. These new ways of working have enabled the company to retain its position as the only water company to appear in the top 50 companies of the Institute of Customer service’s UK Customer Satisfaction Index.
The company has also continued with its commitment to invest in new talent. This has included recruiting over 30 new apprentices over the year with this set to continue over the coming years.
Welsh Water’s Chief Executive Peter Perry said: “Despite what can probably best be described as the most challenging years we have faced, I’m proud that we’ve been able to continue with our record of keeping price increases for the average household bill below the rate of inflation. It also reflects the strength and benefit of our operating model which means we are able to meet these kinds of challenges while at the same time keeping bills affordable for customers. We’ve also been able to continue with our planned investment programme and over the course of the year we will have invested £346 million improving services to customers and protecting our valuable environment. We are also expecting to invest £367 million in the coming year.
“We do appreciate however that the great economic uncertainty the pandemic has brought with it and that there undoubtedly will be tough times ahead. That is why we already offer a range of assistance tariffs for anyone genuinely struggling to pay and I would urge anyone worried about paying their bill to get in touch so we can see what assistance can be provided”.
Rhodri Williams, Chair of CCW Wales, said: “It will come as a relief to struggling households that the average bill will fall but we must not lose sight of the fact that many customers are still missing out on financial assistance that could help see them through Covid-19.”
“Water is often overlooked when it comes to saving money but trialling a water meter for up to two years or seeing if you’re eligible for Welsh Water’s HelpU tariff if you’re on a low income could potentially shave hundreds of pounds off your annual bill.”
Covid alert level lowered for whole of UK
THE COVID alert level for all four nations of the United Kingdom has been lowered to alert level 4.
The decision comes following advice from the Joint Biosecurity Centre and in light of the most recent data.
In recent weeks, the R-rate and the number of covid cases has been on the decline.
Chief Medical Officer for Wales, Dr Frank Atherton said: “Following advice from the Joint Biosecurity Centre and in the light of the most recent data, the four UK Chief Medical Officers and NHS England National Medical Director agree that the UK alert level should move from level 5 to level 4 in all four nations.
“The health services across the four nations remain under significant pressure with a high number of patients in hospital, however thanks to the efforts of public we are now seeing numbers consistently declining, and the threat of the NHS and other health services being overwhelmed within 21 days has receded.
“We should be under no illusions – transmission rates, hospital pressures and deaths are still very high. In time, the vaccines will have a major impact and we encourage everyone to get vaccinated when they receive the offer. However for the time being it is really important that we all – vaccinated or not – remain vigilant and continue to follow the guidelines.
“We know how difficult the situation has been and remains to be for healthcare workers, we thank them for their immense effort, skill and professionalism throughout the pandemic.”
Under the Welsh Government’s Alert level 4 restrictions, schools and colleges, places of worship, community centres, playgrounds and public parks are among those that can be opened.
Theatres, entertainment venues, leisure facilities and outdoor visitors attractions are among the places that must remain close while the country is in Alert Level 4.
Wife completes 50-mile running challenge to raise money for charity after husband suffers stroke
A 39-YEAR-OLD woman from Pwll, Llanelli, has raised over £8,000 for the Stroke Association, after she completed a 50-mile running challenge.
Katie Fry’s husband Dale, 36, had a major stroke in July last year, in the middle of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic and she wants to raise awareness of stroke and how it can happen at any age and at any time.
Dale did not have any symptoms of a stroke, he went to work, played with his children and went for a run but had a headache in the evening so went to bed, when he woke up in the early hours of the next morning he had left sided weakness, headaches and slurred speech.
Katie acted FAST and Dale was admitted to hospital for tests where it was found that Dale had a severe stroke so he was airlifted to Bristol for a thrombectomy, 24 hours later he had life saving brain surgery and remained in Intensive care for days, Dale was repatriated back to the stroke ward in PPH where he remained before being transferred to Neath Port Talbot hospital for his rehabilitation in September.
Dale is transferring to the BIRT (Brain Injury Rehabilitation Trust) early March where he will continue his rehab for 12 weeks.
Katie said: “Dale was fit and well, the stroke came out of nowhere and it was really unexpected. It has been a hard six months as Dale has remained in hospital for his rehabilitation but due to Covid-19 we have been unable to visit him much at all.
“The pandemic has had a huge impact on Dale’s recovery as resources have been limited and Dale is now on a ward with recovering Covid-19 patients and had limited interaction and support. We communicate via video calls but it’s not the same, this has had a huge impact on Dale’s mental wellbeing.’
Katie and Dale have been married for 10 years and have two young children, “I am so proud of my husband as he is working so hard with his rehabilitation and I love to see the videos of him getting a step closer in his recovery. Dale inspires me every day and I hope he and we as a family can inspire other families going through the same journey as us.”
Katie decided to fundraise for the Stroke Association with a 50 mile running challenge as she was determined to do something positive, “It has been a release for me to get out running. It was a way of raising awareness for the charity but also to help me navigate through this difficult time. I have two young children so it has been a very stressful time with home-schooling as well as helping Dale with his recovery. I can’t thank my friends and family enough for their help and support and for everyone who has donated.”
Katie Chappelle, Associate Director, Wales at the Stroke Association said:
“Thank you to Katie for raising an amazing £8000.00. These are vital funds as with the support of people like Katie we can help more stroke survivors and their families as they look to rebuild their lives.
“A stroke can happen to anyone at any time and it turns lives upside down as it has with Dale and his family.”
To sponsor Katie or keep up to date with Dale’s progress please visit: https://www.facebook.com/donate/740852340189430/
COVID-19 tests being encouraged for wider range of symptoms
PEOPLE living in Llanelli are being encouraged to have a free COVID-19 test if they have a wider range of symptoms.
Previously, only those with either a high temperature, a new continuous cough, or a loss/change of taste and smell, were advised to seek a test. The health board is now also encouraging people to have a test if they have any of the following symptoms:
- Flu-like symptoms, including myalgia (muscle ache or pain); excessive tiredness; persistent headache; runny nose or blocked nose; persistent sneezing; sore throat and/or hoarseness, shortness of breath or wheezing
- Generally feeling unwell and a history of being in contact with a known COVID-19 case
- Any new or change in symptoms following a previous negative test
The change aims to find hidden COVID-19 cases in our communities and drive down the numbers of onward transmissions.
Identifying infections, which could otherwise go undetected, is particularly important as new variants of the virus emerge. The more tests carried out, the easier it will be to spot early clusters of cases and possible virus mutations. This will help with easing restrictions in the future.
The new testing regime will initially run for at least 28 days and will then be reviewed. Swansea Bay University Health Board is also expanding its offer of testing in this way.
Alison Shakeshaft, Director of Therapies and Health Science at Hywel Dda University Health Board, said: “Overall, we are seeing a positive picture across the three counties and there has been a steady fall in the number of COVID-19 cases.
“Also, the demand for tests has come down considerably since the end of 2020, so we have capacity to expand the offer of testing to those with a wider range of symptoms.
“We know the wider group of symptoms do occur in COVID-19 but are not reported as often as the ‘classic three’ symptoms. With the very low rates of flu circulating at the moment, it is more likely that wider flu-like symptoms are due to COVID-19.
“Our aim is to find as many COVID-19 cases as possible so we can prevent the virus being passed on to others. We want to do everything we can to help bring the pandemic to a close as fast as possible and help restrictions to be lifted.”
If you have any of the symptoms outlined above, please stay at home and get a test by booking online via the UK portal https://www.gov.uk/get-coronavirus-test or ringing 119.
As these are national contacts, you may automatically be asked about the ‘classic three’ symptoms. However, to book your test simply choose either one of these options: “You have been asked to take a test by your local council” or “You are part of a government pilot project”.
Once you have had your test, you must continue to self-isolate until you receive your result, which will usually be within 24 hours of the test. If your result is positive, you must self-isolate for 10 days from the date your symptoms started. You will also be contacted by the local Tracing Team.
If your result is negative, you can end your self-isolation, when you feel well enough to do so.
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