For as long as I can remember, the high level of water charges here in Cornwall has been an issue. The combination of a large coastline to maintain, the need for higher than expected investment after privatisation and a low population among whom to share the burden of that investment all combined to create the highest water bills in the country.
This week, South Water confirmed that, from this April, every household will get a £50 rebate on their bill which, for the average household means a cut of around 7.3%. Bills will still be high but, at a time when everything else seems to be going up, it is good that at least one bill will definitely be going down. 700,000 households in Devon and Cornwall will benefit from the discount and a further 13,000 customers are expected to see their bills fall dramatically by over £300 as a result of switching to a water meter. The evidence is clear that most households, particularly those living alone or with smaller families, can save a lot of money each year if they switch to a water meter.
Making a significant dent in water charges was one of the things I wanted to see delivered by the coalition government when we got elected. For years, people had talked about the problem but I thought it was time to come up with a solution. As a candidate, I had worked closely with the Conservative Party to try to devise a new form of social tariff which would disproportionately help Cornwall and some of these ideas filtered into government thinking.
The fact that every MP in Cornwall is a member of one of the two governing parties was an opportunity to really deliver the change that some said could never be achieved. While I have had plenty of differences with my Liberal Democrat colleagues over the last couple of years, we all worked together to persuade the government to act on this issue. In all the years when the last government was spending money like there was no tomorrow, they still didn’t do anything to help us with our water bills and I think George Osborne deserves credit for finding the funds to deliver a £50 discount when we all know money is tight.
I recognise that many people will still struggle with their water bills despite this cut but there are other ways they might be able to get even more savings. As well as considering a switch to a water meter South West Water also offer something called a “WaterSure” tariff which is a special discount for those with 3 or more children who are on low incomes and receiving some benefits. To find out more look at their website or give them a call on 0800 1691133.
George Eustice can be contacted at email@example.com or 1 Trevenson Street, Camborne, Cornwall TR14 8JD or by telephone on 020 72197032.