Anger at report on water services

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The Independent Online

After a summer of drought, and amid a deluge of complaints, Britain's water industry regulator Ofwat yesterday angered a consumer group with the claim that "water companies continue to improve customer service".

In the week that saw drought-hit Yorkshire Water resort to a pounds 2m per week tanker operation to ferry water from Northumberland, the message contained in Ofwat's report, 1994-95 Levels of Service, was branded "severely insensitive" by watchdog body Yorkshire Water Watch.

The report details the performance of the 30 water companies in England and Wales, and states that in dealing with billing queries and written complaints, there have been improvements.

Ian Byatt, the Director General of Water Services, reports that where performance, against one or more measure, falls short of what customers can reasonably expect, he "will be discussing with the companies concerned - Mid Kent and Yorkshire - their plans for improvement".

Despite the threat of water cuts, Yorkshire Water scores two "very goods" in the report's analysis of its ability to respond to billing queries and in responding to written complaints.

Diana Scott, one of the leading activists of Yorkshire Water Watch, said: "This whole report shows the insensitivity and lack of real power of Ofwat. What is the point of praising the response time of written complaints if the answers they contain mention nothing about what the companies will now do about leaking pipes, poor investment, or stresses suffered by customers."

In yesterday's report, two companies, south Staffordshire and York, received the top classification for the second year running.