Yorkshire Water axes above-inflation price increases

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YORKSHIRE Water has bowed to customer pressure to cancel an above-inflation increase in prices next year and pledged to keep bills at a lower level until 2020.

The water firm had previously agreed with industry regulator Ofwat that the average household bill could rise to £379 next year, but it has decided to forego the planned £6 increase and stick with an increase in line with inflation.

This means the average Yorkshire bill next year will be £373, some £19 lower than the national average. The current average customer bill in Yorkshire is £368.

Yorkshire Water’s chief executive Richard Flint said: “We’re listening to our customers and the cost of living debate.

“We’ve taken a hard look and decided to halt the price hike and keep it at that level for the next five years.”

The shortfall will be made up by cutting the dividend paid to investors.

Last year’s half year dividend – a payment to shareholders of £129m has been slashed to £69m.

“Everyone has to take a share of the pain and investors are no different,” said Mr Flint.

The move follows pressure from Ofwat to reduce price increases amid fury about ever rising utility bills at a time when people are having to choose between feeding their families and heating their homes.

Earlier this week Yorkshire Water’s North West counterpart United Utilities also cancelled a planned hike in bills to keep them in line with inflation.

On Monday Yorkshire Water will announce it plans to keep bills at this lower level from 2015 to 2020.

A spokeswoman for the Consumer Council for Water in the north said: “Customers on low and fixed incomes struggle to keep up even with small bill increases and this will be of particular benefit to them.”