HOUSEHOLD water bills in the region are set to rise by up to £36 over the next five years, following a draft price rise set by regulatory body Ofwat yesterday.

Bills in the North-East will go up by about £12 over five years while in North Yorkshire, customers will see bills increase by an average of £36.

But the draft price rise is much less than the £59 increase proposed by Northumbrian Water in its business plan, which would have amounted to a rise of more than 25 per cent.

Over five years, starting from April next year, the average household bill will rise to £244.

Yorkshire Water customers will see their bills increase on average by £36 to £279 over the next five years.

The company had wanted to impose a rise of £50 - an increase of more than 21 per cent.

Across the country, average bills will increase by £33 over the next five years - amounting to a 13 per cent rise - less than half of what the water industry wanted.

Customer groups said the region had seen some of the lowest price rises in the country. But they said that planned rises may not be enough to allow the water companies to fund investment.

Andrea Cook, chairwoman of the local water watchdog WaterVoice Northumbria, said: "We accept that increases are not palatable to customers and recognise that there are issues of affordability for many people.

"Our worry is that, in the case of Northumbrian Water, it does not appear to have been given the necessary level of investment to address customers' concerns on issues such as sewer flooding and discoloured water."

Ms Cook rejected any criticism of the level of profits being made by the likes of Northumbrian Water, adding that they were trying to pass on benefits to customers rather than shareholders.

Philip Fletcher, director general of water services at Ofwat, said that its proposals were fair to both customers and water companies.

Northumbrian and Yorkshire Water said they would carefully consider Ofwat's proposals and would submit their responses by September 15, before final price limits are set in December.

Kevin Whiteman, managing director of Yorkshire Water, said: "Our overriding aim remains to safeguard Yorkshire's water and sewerage infrastructure and maintain levels of service whilst at the same time making further efficiencies and keeping price rises as low as possible."