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Rising bill costs too much for consumer, say MPs

THE Government must step in to assess whether consumers can afford years of rising household bills under plans to modernise Britain's infrastructure, MPs have said.

Consumers will be expected to meet around £250 billion of the cost of upgrades including major energy, water and transport projects, but MPs warned that poorest households would be hardest hit by increased bills.

The Commons Public Accounts Committee also warned that uncertainty caused by Government policies could potentially add to rising energy bills, with investment in new power stations being delayed and a "lack of urgency" in replacing coal-fired plants.

The Treasury has £375 billion of projects in its infrastructure pipeline, which stretches to 2030, aimed at replacing ageing assets, supporting growth, meeting the demands of a growing population and complying with European regulations and climate-change targets.

Some two-thirds of this investment will be from private companies but paid for by consumers through utility bills and charges.

"Energy and water bills have risen considerably faster than incomes in recent years, and high levels of new investment in infrastructure mean that bills and charges are likely to continue to rise significantly," the MPs said.

The report said: "No one in Government is taking responsibility for assessing the overall impact ... of whether consumers will be able to afford to pay. This is a particular concern given that the poorest households are hit hardest by increases in bills."

The cross-party committee said the Treasury should ensure that an assessment of the long-term affordability of bills is carried out.

The Committee's Labour chairwoman Margaret Hodge said: "No one seems to be sticking up for the consumer in all this".

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