United praises 'extraordinary efforts' of staff during big freeze

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United Utilities praised the "extraordinary efforts" of staff who battled extreme weather to ensure that the UK's largest utility met its annual leakage target.

Between Christmas and the new year, United received 40,000 calls reporting burst pipes – 10 times the usual level – in a "unprecedented" period for the firm.

The utility also reported a lower-than-expected drop in annual profits, after it was ordered by the water regulator Ofwat to cut prices as part of a sector review.

United said revenue from regulated activities fell 4 per cent, reflecting a similar 4 per cent decrease in prices.

Underlying pre-tax profits fell by 32 per cent to £329m, because of lower revenue following the price review, as well as higher infrastructure renewals expenditure and property rates.

Despite the "tough" Ofwat settlement, United claimed it is well positioned for the five-year regulatory period after embarking on a cost-cutting drive and winning union backing for changes to its pension scheme which reduce the deficit and also future costs.