Water bills set to rocket in West Sussex

Southern Water, which serves parts of West Sussex, has published draft proposals for a multi-billion pound programme which will send annual household bills rocketing by 4.5 per cent above inflation from 2010.

The company says the 2.6bn plan has been drawn up to enable it to maintain and improve services to its four million customers from 2010 to 2015.

European environmental legislation and measures to cater for the south-east region's housing growth have been blamed for contributing to the increased costs which will be passed on to customers.

The proposals are detailed in the company's draft five-year business plan which is now open for public consultation after being submitted to industry regulator Ofwat.

Southern Water's chief executive Les Dawson said: "We have worked hard to balance the need to spend money on improvements with the desire to keep down customer bills.

"Indeed, we have come up with proposals to maintain and upgrade the resilience of our water and wastewater services for customers that broadly need no real price increases.

"However, we face a 655m programme of work to deliver 329 projects, more than anywhere else in the UK, specifically because of legislation imposed on us from Europe. We also have to spend 450m to cater for growth in the south-east region.

"We have no choice but to do this and it is not possible to meet these requirements, which make up nearly half of our proposed spending programme, and cover increased power costs without price rises and borrowing substantial amounts of money."

Customers can comment on the draft business plan until October 31. A final business plan will be produced in spring 2009. Ofwat makes a final decision on future prices in November, 2009.

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