South West Water has upset some of its customers, and some of its staff as well we are told, with its announcement that its HQ at Exeter, Peninsula House, is going to be refurbished. Costing some £1.5 million the work is due to start in May with completion at the end of the year. SWW reckon this expenditure will be recouped in a couple of years; I presume this will be down to such matters as more operational efficiency and better use of energy. I think that this will be the first makeover for 20 plus years.
The 1.5 million number is not too dissimilar to the size of the population it serves. In other words it will costing each of us about a pound. Now I'm going to go out on a limb perhaps and say that I don't, in principle, have any problem with this. To be honest I welcome it. Lets look at the benefits: firstly it won't be long before it will start saving the bill payer money, secondly, if it involves energy saving (and I'm sure it must) that will be good for the planet, and last but not least this would be the ideal time to do it because with unemployment escalating such a contract will provide job security for the tradesmen involved for a few months at least.
More than likely the reason that some people are getting irate over the issue is the fact that we have the highest water bills in the country! This is an unrelated problem so far as I am concerned and it's up to the government to do something to reduce the marked differences in prices between different water companies.
I've noticed that people like the BBC display what is to me an annoying habit when running this sort of story. They interview say a couple of people against the scheme and one or two who are pro. What's all that about? Obviously with the huge number of customers that SWW has you can easily get a quick response from both sides but I don't see that somebody just saying "It's disgusting" is moving the argument along, particularly as the interviewee has to comment on the spur of the moment without giving the thing much thought.
On the subject of the cost of our water bills there was an interesting proposal mooted the other day. I think that the water company is going to run an experiment with a few of its customers whereby, using smart metering, there will be a reduced unit cost up to a certain limit. If more water is used then the price per litre will be much higher for this additional usage. In other words the cost of essential water use will be more modest but if you are going to use much more water for washing the car or sprinkling the lawn say then expect your bill to take off. They say that they will take into account the number of people in the metered property which seems reasonable enough: my problem here though is all the extra bureaucracy needed in ascertaining the number of people resident in a house - have they thought this through?
I think that we will see a lot more interest in 'smart metering' be it for water, gas or electricity in the next few years.