Number of English and Welsh struggling to pay water bill up 33% – regulator

A sign warning not to drink water is seen on a fountain in London

LONDON (Reuters) – There has been a 33% increase in the number of people in England and Wales struggling to pay their water bills since May, according to a report by the industry regulator on Wednesday, as the rising cost of living continues to impact household budgets.

Ofwat, which regulates water utilities in England and Wales, said a Savanta survey of 2,328 bill payers carried out from Oct. 4 to 13 found the proportion of customers who said they were struggling to pay their water bill was 20%, up from 15% in May.

More broadly, Ofwat’s research found energy bills remained consumers’ top concern, with 37% of respondents saying they were struggling to pay their gas bill, up from 29% in May, and 35% their electricity bill, up from 27% previously.

Of those who struggled to pay household bills, 33% said they asked to borrow money from friends or family, 17% had used credit cards to pay bills and 13% had taken out a short-term loan.

British consumer price inflation hit a 41-year high of 11.1% in October, largely due to a surge in energy prices, as well as post-pandemic bottlenecks and labour shortages.

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The watchdog also said two-thirds of those surveyed expected their situation to worsen in the coming year.

(Reporting by Muvija M; Editing by Kylie MacLellan and Mark Potter)