FAMILIES face a “real and painful” squeeze in their household budgets after a 2.8 per cent rise in water charges announced yesterday.
Scottish Water is to hike prices for the first time in four years, but opposition parties warned the news will be met with “dismay” by families who face ongoing rises in gas, electricity and food prices.
The increase is more than the 2.7 per cent retail prices index of inflation, but below the consumer prices index inflation rate of 3.1 per cent which Scottish Water claims is the basis for its calculations.
Labour infrastructure spokesman Richard Baker said: “Scottish families will be dismayed by this increase which comes on the heels of gas and electricity price rises, making it even more difficult for hard-working families to make ends meet.
“There is a strong argument that this increase has come in response to the SNP cutting the budget for Scottish Water. Each small increase in costs combine to create a real and painful squeeze for families which makes for a very unhappy start to 2013 for tens of thousands of Scots.”
It means that people living in a band-D property will pay £404.46 next year, up from £393.57. The average amount customers will pay in 2013-14 is £334, Scottish Water said.
Scottish Water remains in public hands, unlike water firms south of the Border, and received almost £13 million from the Scottish Government to support its operations last year. Its executives are among the highest paid public sector.
Douglas Millican, interim chief executive described the increased charges, to be applied in April, as “a fair deal for our customers in these challenging economic conditions”.
He said: “These charges are helping to pay for the current £2.5 billion investment programme which is delivering the investment that Scotland needs in its water infrastructure while providing thousands of construction jobs.
“Millions of people are turning on their taps to clearer, fresher drinking water, enjoying a cleaner environment and receiving improved customer service as a result.”
Bills in Scotland are expected to be about £50 below the average paid by households in England and Wales to private water companies, the firm said.
Council tax includes combined charges for water supply and waste-water collection. Scottish Water’s charges for this have remained the same since 2009.
Tory Alex Johnstone said: “While this rise still compares favourably with water charges south of the Border, what this figure does not take into account is the fact Scottish Water is also given significant sums of money by the Scottish Government.”