Severn Trent has launched a support package to cut water bills by up to 90% for a further 100,000 cash-strapped customers as households struggle amid the cost-of-living crisis.
The Coventry-headquartered water firm unveiled a £30 million fund to help those on low incomes, adding to its existing scheme that supports 215,000 customers in need.
Severn Trent said research suggests another 100,000 customers in its area are set to fall into so-called water poverty as finances are stretched by soaring energy bills and living costs.
We don't want anybody in our region feeling nervous about their water bill arrivingLiv Garfield, Severn Trent chief executive
A study carried out by management consultants CEPA suggests 6.5% of households – around 1.5 million – are already in water poverty, meaning they spend more than 5% of their total income after housing costs on water bills.
The cost crunch is expected to see more people struggle to pay their bills, with inflation predicted to hit over 10% later this year.
Severn Trent chief executive Liv Garfield told the PA news agency the firm was getting more phone calls from customers worried about their bills, but that it was yet to see higher levels of households falling behind with repayments.
She said: “As cost-of-living pressures continue to rise, we’re acting now to support people struggling to pay their bills.
“Our customers have the second-lowest bill in the UK, at around £1 per day, but we know that for some, paying this remains a challenge.”
“We don’t want anybody in our region feeling nervous about their water bill arriving,” she added.
The firm is the UK’s second-biggest water firm, serving 4.8 million homes and businesses in England and Wales, stretching from mid-Wales to Rutland and from north and mid-Wales south to the Bristol Channel and east to the Humber.
David Black, chief executive of regulator Ofwat, said: “No-one should have to choose between paying for water and paying for food.”
He called on other firms in the sector to “do more to respond to the cost-of-living worries”.
Details of Severn Trent’s fund were announced alongside its full-year results showing underlying pre-tax profits rising 7.5% to £508 million.
But the firm also laid bare the increase in its own costs from soaring inflation, revealing an extra £50 million in energy bills.