We know household budgets remain under pressure. Most customers say our bills are already fair, affordable and value for money, but we are focused on doing what we can to improve on this position.
In 2015/16, customers on average saw their annual bill drop by around 9 per cent – the biggest reduction of any major water company in the UK, and twice the industry average. While bills have risen since, they are still lower than they were five years ago. For 2018/19, we were able to keep increases to 0.7 per cent, well below the level of inflation.In April 2015, Anglian Water introduced its social tariff LITE (Low Income Tariff for Eligible Households). LITE is administered in partnership with the Citizens Advice Bureau and Orbit. On average, we receive over 1,000 referrals per month, with 70 per cent of eligible applicants receiving the maximum discount of 80 per cent. This can see the average customer household bill reduce from £427 to just £85 a year.
As part of the financial assessment for LITE, our customers also receive a benefits maximisation check to see it they are claiming all assistance to which the household is entitled. To date, our partners have identified in excess of £4 million in potential benefit gains for applicant households, with the average benefit gain for qualifying households equating to £3,000 per annum. We are committed to metering as the fairest way to charge for water, encouraging water saving and ensuring our customers only pay for what they use. Eighty per cent of our customers already receive a metered bill. During the next five years, teams from our Integrated Metering and Developer Services alliance (IMDS) will be installing 86,000 new meters, upgrading another 412,000 and visiting 120,000 customers to offer efficiency tips and install water-saving devices.
These areas of work have been combined in our Wave programme, which offers all elements of metering and water efficiency in defined geographical areas that we visit in turn. In 2017/18 we have made good progress, installing 15,000 new meters and proactively replacing 80,000 more across Norfolk and Buckinghamshire.
Alongside our day-to-day operations we've also started a new smart metering trial in our innovation Shop Window in Newmarket. We have fitted smart meters at 7,500 properties in the town centre and are now remotely collecting hourly consumption data, totaling about 145,000 meter readings every day.
The data will help customers understand their water use, and help us to better understand how our water network operates. It has also alerted some customers to large leaks on their private supply pipes. We've developed an online customer portal that lets people view their consumption data, helping them to understand their water use and see where they can save water. We will gauge its effectiveness over the coming months to help develop future plans.