Social Tariffs

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2014 Water, Environment & Transport Service Group
18 February 2014

This Conference notes that the Water Bill has moved through its legislative cycle following much delay.

UNISON has been totally underwhelmed with the Water Bill and its contents and does not believe that the continued drive to introduce competition is the panacea that is so often claimed.

If we take a look at the Energy Sector in the UK, constant criticism is evident and it is a widely held view that consumers have been and are being ripped off. Competition has simply not delivered to consumers in the energy sector and it will not deliver the promised gains to water consumers.

UNISON believes that the valuable legislative time taken by the Water Bill should instead have focused on the problems many consumers are having with increasing costs which are being passed down to them, especially those most vulnerable in society. This is leading to more bad debt and the associated problems that follow.

The management of bad debt is putting our members who work in the industry under considerable and increasing pressure. They are placed in the difficult position of having to chase up bad debts from some of the most vulnerable in society.

A simple way to ensure members are not put in this difficult position and vulnerable customers protected, would be to include a legislative requirement in the water industry to have a social tariff set up for those households in need. The calculation of such a tariff must be universally applied and set a rate that is of material benefit to the consumer.

Conference therefore calls on the Service Group Executive to:

i) Build a campaign with a key objective to get the UK water industry to adopt a social tariff.

ii) Engage with the water industry, OFWAT and key stakeholders to ensure that the introduction of a universal social tariff is set at a meaningful level.

iii) Work with Labour Link to build a political narrative and seek to get inclusion in future party manifestos.

iv) Work with the UNISON charity ‘There For You’ to raise awareness of water debt issues.