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Shock in the waterbill for Great Yarmouth residents

PUBLISHED: 07:41 10 July 2009 | UPDATED: 10:42 06 July 2010

Barry Trew

Barry Trew

Customers in Great Yarmouth are paying 35 per cent more for their water than those in Essex - and it is supplied by the same company.

It was a revelation to shock Barry Trew... and drive the ducks in his garden quackers.

When a bill from Essex and Suffolk Water arrived on his doormat in Scratby, near Yarmouth, he was puzzled to find the cost he was paying per cubic metre - 135.76p - was not the same as the price - 99.86p - outlined in an explanatory leaflet that came in the same envelope.

Confusion turned to anger when he rang the water company and was eventually told the leaflet indicating the lower tariff should have been sent just to its Essex customers - and yes, it was true, the price paid by customers there was more than 35pc cheaper than for those living in Suffolk and Norfolk.

Retired builder Mr Trew, 48, said: “I had to be put through to five different people at the water company before I eventually got the explanation that the leaflet had been sent in error.

“It seems crazy that the same company should be charging customers vastly different amounts depending on where they live. They are taking the mick.”

Mr Trew, who has stated his indignation in a letter to Yarmouth MP Tony Wright, said it now made him less than happy each time he filled up his ornamental boat features with water for the ducks who share his three-and-a-half acre garden.

A spokesman for Essex and Suffolk Water said the level of water bills, set by the regulator Ofwat, differed from region to region and area to area for a variety of factors related to, and including, the cost of resources, improvement and maintenance of assets, and treatment and supply of drinking water to customers' taps.

He pointed out that the company had 1.4 million customers in Essex compared to only 250,000 in Suffolk and Norfolk - the cost of pipes maintenance and other costs could therefore be spread over a much greater number of people.

Bills for customers in the North-East from parent company Northumbrian Water were even less due to the high density of population there.

Figures from tables supplied by water regulator Ofwat confirm that an average water bill, based on the same level of consumption, would see Essex and Suffolk customers in Essex paying £137 annually compared to a figure of £176 in Suffolk and the coastal patch of Norfolk it controls.

Steve Grebby, policy manager for the Consumer Council for Water watchdog, said it was accepted that the price of water reflected the relative cost of supplying the customer. However, in the case of Essex and Suffolk, they were pressing the company to equalise the price across its geographic area within a five-year timescale.

Yarmouth MP Mr Wright said: “It is outrageous that the same company should charge people differently on the basis of where they live, and I congratulate Mr Trew for discovering it.

“When you put a first-class stamp on a letter there is a universal obligation to deliver it anywhere in the country, and the supply of water should be the same.”

He said he would be seeking answers from Essex and Suffolk Water and taking it up with ministers if he was not satisfied.

Anglian Water confirmed to the EDP that there was no difference in its tariffs based on where customers lived.

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