WATER bills in Oxfordshire are to increase by an inflation-busting 5.5 per cent.

The increase announced by Thames Water yesterday for the 2013/14 financial year puts the average annual bill up by £18 to £354.

Regulator Ofwat said the average household water and sewerage bill in England and Wales is forecast to increase by 3.5 per cent, or about £13, from April.

Inflation is currently three per cent, according to the Retail Prices Index.

But Thames Water’s average annual bill is still slightly lower than the national average bill of £388.

Chief executive Martin Baggs said the company would invest more than £1bn per year on improvements to its water pipes.

Mr Baggs said: “We are very aware of how tight household budgets are at the moment, so we understand that keeping bills as low as possible is important.

“We are providing an essential service at an average cost of just under £1 a day for each household.With each of these households using on average more than 600 litres a day, that is exceptional value.”

Bob Soden, of Nobles Close, Grove, – who suffered an issue with mains water gushing from a pipe under his road in January – hit out at the rise.

Mr Soden, 63, a retired maintenance fitter, said: “This is just another symptom of Rip-Off Britain.

“I don’t see how any increase above inflation is necessary.”