For the first time, the report assesses each company’s overall service for the last two years. As well as covering water supply, sewerage service and customer service, this includes a broad range of environmental measures and qualitative aspects of customer service.

Ian Byatt, director general of Ofwat, launching the report commented that the “overall performance of the companies in supplying water and responding to customer contact continues to improve, in some cases very significantly.”

Bristol, Hartlepool, Southern, Wessex and York are shown to be providing a particularly good service to their companies. Those companies whose level of service falls below that which customers might reasonably expect, have been asked to inform Mr Byatt what their plans are for improvement. Where necessary, targets have been set for improvements.

The information, together with that for 1998-99, will be used by the director general to adjust the new price limits which he will set next year. “This means that the new price limits will reflect company performance in delivering services and protecting the environment. These adjustments will reward the best of companies and penalise the worst,” he explained.

Commenting on the report, Pamela Taylor, chief executive of Water UK, said: “This story of continuing improvement just has to be good news for customers. It confirms everything we’ve said about the efforts the industry has made in recent years to bring customer service to new high standards.

“We’re putting real emphasis on developing even better relationships with customers through more efficient call centres, more advice and information, and extensive ongoing consultation to find out what they really want.”

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