Universal Credit rollout sparks political interest in water affordability

The widespread rollout of Universal Credit this autumn is putting increased political focus on the affordability of water bills and the availability of help for those who might struggle to pay.

On Friday in Parliament, shadow DEFRA minister, David Drew (pictured), asked environment secretary, Michael Gove, “what measures he has put in place to deal with trends in the level of personal debts to water companies after the introduction of universal credit; and what plans he has to introduce a mandatory social tariff to help customers who cannot afford their water bills?”

Water minister, Therese Coffey, responded by listing the range of support mechanisms available in the industry including the nationally mandated WaterSure tariff and social tariffs. She shut down the idea of a mandatory social tariff, commenting: “The government believes that companies are best placed to develop social tariffs to reflect local needs and views.”

She also referred to the help provided by the Consumer Council for Water and to the new data sharing provisions under the Digital Economy Act which she personally oversaw. These will assist water companies in identifying those customers who may need help paying their bill.