A HAMPSHIRE water provider has been named as the worst performing supplier in England and Wales for the sixth successive year.

Southern Water saw a 20 per cent reduction in written complaints in 2017/18 but failed to improve its overall ranking in annual figures released by watchdogs at the Consumer Council for Water (CCW).

Last night the company admitted: "We still have a long way to go to meet the standards our customers rightly expect."

Southern Water, which supplies Hampshire, the Isle of Wight and two other counties, is still languishing at the bottom of the industry league table.

Its position is based the number of written complaints it received, plus the number of telephone calls from customers wanting to resolve problems – known as "unwanted contacts".

Sir Tony Redmond, CCW's regional branch chairman, said: “There are signs the company is heading in the right direction but we have not seen enough progress.

“There will be no let-up in the pressure from us until the company gets more into line with the rest of the industry.”

Southern Water will remain on CCW’s watch list for the third successive year, with the company having to provide quarterly reports on the progress it is making to reduce complaints.

Last year the company was fined more than £500,000 after sending out water unfit for human consumption to residents and businesses in the Southampton area.

Southern Water was labelled “reckless” by District Judge Anthony Callaway, who condemned the company for providing water that was “metallic tasting, discoloured and odorous” to 224 homes in Holbury, Blackfield, Marchwood and Dibden Purlieu.

It was also criticised for supplying 120 properties in Hillyfields with water which failed to meet governmental standards.

Last night Southern Water said it welcomed the fact that in 2017/18 written complaints fell by more than 20 per cent following a 48 per cent reduction in 2016/17.

Chief customer officer Simon Oates said Southern Water was undergoing a "significant transformation".

He added: "We are passionate about engaging directly with our customers and communities to help improve our services now and in the future.

"Overall we have reduced complaints by 58 per cent and while we are rapidly closing the gap between ourselves and the rest of the industry, we know that genuine, lasting change takes time.

“We still have a long way to go to meet the standards our customers rightly expect.

"But the changes we’ve introduced this year are driving down complaints. We are more proactively managing customers’ accounts and resolving more problems for customers the first time they call us.”