Cornwall has always suffered from high water bills when compared to the rest of the country. This is partly due to the larger amount of coastline we have to maintain, but also due to our relatively low population, which means there are fewer people to shoulder the burden.
That is why in the last Parliament I made it a priority to press the Treasury to introduce a new £50 rebate for all household water bills in the South West. We managed to secure the £40 million funding for this, and for the last three years I have worked to make sure it was maintained, with George Osborne pledging again at the Autumn Statement to continue the scheme until 2020.
As a result, the average water bill in Cornwall will be £488 in 2016/17-lower than it was last year. Furthermore South West Water has also pledged to keep bills below the rate of inflation, which will also be welcome news for people in Cornwall struggling with the cost of living.
I recognise that despite this rebate, there will always be people who struggle to pay their water bills. However, there are other measures which people can take up in order to keep bills lower. This includes having a free water meter installed, which can typically bring savings of £400 a year, and SWW 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 receive some benefits.
Given that our water bills are still higher than the national average, I would also like to see further progress made on tackling the issue of emergency sewage discharges in Cornwall. The problems are partly caused by heavy rainfall, but exacerbated by our old, Victorian sewage system. I am therefore pleased that SWW have recently pledged to invest in delivering improvements at the Gwithian Sewage Treatment Works, along with other sewage improvements in places like Redruth. These won't solve the problem entirely, but they are another step in the right direction.