NEA is pleased to respond to this open consultation on the vision for the next water price review, PR24, highlighting opportunities to strengthen the vision around customer affordability and vulnerability. In summary:
- Customer affordability must be a clear feature in PR24 and future price reviews, either as theme in its own right, or by being explicitly addressed under each key theme. This will provide the opportunity to strengthen existing support services while addressing emerging challenges through innovation, all whilst keeping bill levels as low as possible.
- Appropriate focus on the short- and medium- term challenges must be retained alongside any increased focus on the long-term strategic challenges. Companies must have the flexibility and ability to respond to emerging, more time-sensitive, issues without fear of penalty, and without detriment to their customers.
- Increased and clearer understanding of the needs of customers and communities must be supported by appropriate action, with research leading to demonstrable improvements in customer service. The current momentum surrounding customer affordability must be maintained, and opportunities to level up must be maximised.
- There needs to be an increased focus on identifying innovative solutions to addressing customer affordability and vulnerability, with a requirement to assess all innovation projects for the effect on customers in vulnerable circumstances. Cost-benefit analyses should be undertaken to demonstrate the value in spending customers’ money on innovations.
- An appropriate balance must be struck between keeping bills low and providing adequate allowances to support long-term resilience; if a smaller reduction in bills in the short-term reduces the risk of higher bill spikes in the future due to water resource management, then we believe the long-term impact on both the affordability and accessibility of water could be improved.