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Welsh Water bill increase remains at or below inflation for twelfth year

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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.”

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Lifeline for cockle-gathers could be on the way after Llangennech rail crash

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Plaid Cymru MS Helen Mary Jones has raised the impact on cockle-gathers of the Llangennech derailment last year.

She received an assurance from the First Minister that the Welsh Government was looking at way to help the cockle industry.

Plaid Cymru’s Shadow Economy, Transport and Tackling Poverty Minister, Helen Mary Jones MS said:

“In the Senedd I congratulated the public services for the way they co-operated around the clean-up after the Llangennech derailment, which, so far, has been very successful. I demanded a life-line scheme to help the cockle gathers.

“I raised with the First Minister issues for two groups of businesses particularly badly affected in the short-term by the derailment. 

“One of those was the very important cockle-gathering industry, the other, of course, were farmers who graze animals on those low-lying banks by the river. 

“There has been a request for the Welsh Government to consider whether some interim financial support might be made available to the cockle gatherers and the grazers while responsibility for the derailment and long-term compensation becomes a possibility. Many of these are small businesses; they operate on quite low margins and currently in difficult circumstances.

“The First Minister emphasised he was aware of the impact on cockle gatherers and particularly that they were unable to carry out their normal activities while the level of environmental contaminants in the estuary were being surveyed.

“Plaid Cymru believes it must be the polluter in the end that must pay for the damage that has been caused, but the rail accident investigation branch work is not coming to a conclusion quickly.

“The Welsh Government is expecting to receive advice in the next few days whether or not it is possible to devise a scheme through the Welsh Government in which some interim assistance to those industries could be supplied.

“The Welsh Government is keen to obtain that advice from officials in case it is possible, before the rail accident investigation is completed, so they can offer some assistance to those who have been most directly affected.”

The environmental impact of the Llangennech derailment last year was amongst the most significant in Wales since the Sea Empress disaster of 25 years ago. 

Monitoring of the site and surrounding area, which includes four sites of special scientific interest and a special area of conservation will continue for many years to come.

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UK Budget must take crucial steps to help recovery

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LLANELLI Labour representatives are urging the UK Government to take the necessary steps to begin recovery and secure prosperity across all parts of the UK.

Llanelli’s MP Nia Griffith and MS Lee Waters set out Wales’ priorities ahead of the UK Budget on Wednesday March 3 2021.

They are urging the UK Government to make a series of commitments to Wales, including:

• sustaining UK-wide business support
• delivering welfare and taxation measures to support the most vulnerable
• redressing the historical under investment in Wales on research and development and rail infrastructure
• providing an injection of funding to support the transition to Net Zero carbon emissions
• providing guarantees for Wales’ specific funding pressures

Speaking ahead of the UK Budget announcement, Nia Griffith MP reiterated her calls for continued business support for those on the lowest of incomes. She said:  

“It is vital that the Job Retention Scheme and Self Employed Income Support Scheme are retained – not threatened with being removed at the eleventh hour and putting livelihoods at risk. A delay to repayments should also be introduced for the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme with recognition given to the self-employed who are facing deferred bills.”

“It is also vital that the £20 per week increase to Universal Credit is maintained and put on a permanent basis, making it available to people in receipt of legacy means-tested benefits. More than 300,000 families in Wales have benefitted from an extra £1,000 a year as a result of the uplift and removing this now would have a detrimental and long-lasting effect on thousands of households across Wales.”

Lee Waters MS said:

“The UK Government should continue to take advantage of historically low interest rates to invest in Wales’ infrastructure and public services. Particularly on rail, where we have been underfunded to the tune of billions since the start of devolution, this is the moment where Rishi Sunak can demonstrate his commitment to ‘levelling up’ all four nations of the UK.”

“This budget is a chance to hardwire a greener, fairer way of doing things into our recovery from Coronavirus. We are ambitious about our target of being Net Zero carbon by 2050, and averting the climate crisis which is increasingly affecting Wales through flooding. But to make that transition, we need a step change from the UK Government’s budget that allows us to invest in renewable energy and green jobs.”

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Search for Susan Smith continues

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THE search for missing Susan Smith is now in it’s third day. She was last seen on Saturday (Feb 27), walking in the Kidwelly area.

Speaking to The Herald, a police spokesperson said: “We are continuing to search for Susan Smith who has been reported missing.”

“The search is continuing today with specialist police officers making house to house enquiries in the Kidwelly, St Ishamels, Ferryside and surrounding areas.

Sergeant Fiona Phillips said: “It is important that we build a picture of Susan’s movements after she was last seen on Saturday and I would appeal to anyone who believes they may have seen her to contact police.”

Susan was last seen 1.30pm Saturday, February 27 2021, walking in the Carmarthen Bay Holiday Village, Kidwelly area. She is known to walk along the beach to St Ishmaels and Ferryside.

She is described as approximately 5ft2 inches tall, petite with shoulder length blonde hair and believed to be wearing black jeans, a black fleece type jacket and navy and grey walking boots.

Any who has seen Susan or anyone who may have information that could help the search is asked to contact Dyfed-Powys Police, quoting reference 285 of Saturday 27th February.

Police can be contacted either online at bit.ly/DPPContactOnline, by emailing 101@dyfed-powys.pnn.police.uk, or by calling 101. If you are deaf, hard of hearing or speech impaired text the non-emergency number on 07811 311 908

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