Water charges- is metering better?

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Joined: 22-09-05
Dec 8 2005 22:40
Water charges- is metering better?

Low-income families to be protected against water charges

Low-income families and pensioners will be protected against the introduction of water charges in Northern Ireland by being billed no more than 3% of their income, the Government confirmed today.

Bytongueress Association

At the same time water meters are to be installed in all newly-built homes - more than 10,000 a year.

Pensioners who are asset-rich but income-poor will also be able to chose to have a water meter installed for when charges are introduced in April 2007.

The charges will be based on property values, ranging from £284 a year for a £100,000 house to a top of £769 for a £450,000 house.

Average bills are expected to be around £330 but Regional Development Minister Shaun Woodward said for those on low incomes no-one will pay more than £180 regardless of the value of their home.

He also announced two even lower tariffs for those on low incomes and in low value homes - £90 for homes valued at up to £70,000 and £135 for homes valued at up to £100,000.

The charges will be phased on over three years - one third in 2007, two thirds the following year and the full change the year after.

Mr Woodward said: "I am very concerned that we need to help people prepare for these charges, even though people in Northern Ireland will pay no more than the average paid by anyone else in the United Kingdom."

The Affordable Tariffs had been set for those on low incomes to avoid the very real problem of water poverty.

"We will spend the next 16 months working hard to ensure that everyone who is entitled to this protection gets it.

"We will be actively seeking out those householders on Income Support and Pension Credit and who are entitled to, but do not claim, Housing Benefit or Rate Rebate, to ensure they get all the benefits they are entitled to and the lower water bill."

Mr Woodward also confirmed he would not be shifting the burden on to those paying full bills, but funding the protection for the less well off from public expenditure.

Overall, he said, he believed the package of measures being introduced would be fair and affordable for all sections of society.

At the same time the introduction of new charges for water and sewage would mean the freeing of about £300 million extra for health, education and transport.

Mr Woodward said he recognised there remained a high degree of opposition to the introduction of water charges - but government had heard nothing to suggest there was a realistic alternative.

The opponents said people already paid for water and sewage charges as part of their rates bill and were now being asked to pay twice, he said.

The minister said people in Great Britain paid on average £1,200 for property taxes and water and sewerage charges, while those in Northern Ireland currently paid an average of £550 in rates.

"This is less than half of what people in Great Britain are paying and is simply not sustainable."

The new domestic charges would provide a reliable source of revenue to sustain the major infrastructure investment needed for the future.

While the Government has been working on the introduction of water charges it has also been driving up the rates bills.

The regional rate - the part which goes towards central rather than local council funds, went up 9% this year - will increase by 19% next year and 6% the year after.

There will be no reduction when water charges are introduced on top.

The SDLP Regional Development spokeswoman, Margaret Ritchie, MLA, said while ministers were to be commended for introducing protection for low income families they should not be introducing charges at all.

"They fail to recognise the simple fact that water charges are wrong, that we are already paying and that there is no support for their proposals.

"A means-tested mugging is still a mugging."

Ms Ritchie said it was wrong to expect people to pay for the reform of public services that direct rule ministers had neglected for decades.

"We already pay for water as a proportion of the regional rate. The British Government is morally bankrupt on this issue and they know it."

Sinn Fein spokesman, Raymond McCartney, MLA, was of similar opinion - it had been paid for through the rates.

"This money should have been invested in our water services and not squandered by successive British administrations," he said.

It was unacceptable people were being asked to pay now for the Northern Ireland Office`s failures, he said.

Public service union NIPSA said they maintained their fundamental opposition to household water charges and would continue to campaign against them.

"We believe it is wrong in principle that householders should be faced with a monthly or quarterly bill for the provision of water to their homes.

"This should be a basic human right not a commodity to be bought and sold," said general secretary John Corey.

However there was support for the Government from the Consumer Council, although they said charges were too high and they would be working to have them reduced before introduction.

But chief executive Eleanor Gill welcomed the protection for people on low incomes.

"This unprecedented protection package stops water poverty before it starts - a welcome breakthrough," she said.

From UTV

Joined: 31-10-03
Dec 9 2005 12:20


well we can agree (?) that water should be freely available and not have to be paid for.

That said if you do have to pay for your , metering is good if you live in a house and there's only one of you. My water charges are much lower since going over to a metered supply.

also helps if you live somewhere where the water is supplied by a not-for-profit company that refunds the profits (last year i got the equivalent to 2 months charges returned to me!)

metering v. bad news if you're in a large family and live in a small house as you'll probably end up paying more if you install a meter.

so metering should be voluntary.

Of course in a capitalist market if everyone opts for the cheaper option it just means that everyone's charges get increased to take account of that.

AFAIK once a meter is installed they rarely get taken out even if the occupants change.