Cunningham claims charging vacant sites will swerve price increases

Recently unveiled plans to charge water supply and sewerage charges to vacant, non-domestic properties in Scotland will avoid a 5% increase in supply and sewerage bills according to Scotland's environment secretary Roseanna Cunningham (pictured). Following a public consultation, an existing exemption from water service charges for vacant, non-domestic properties will be removed from 1 April 2017. The decision to amend the charging regime to make all non-domestic properties connected to services liable for charges followed a public consultation.

Revenue raised will be used to maintain the current freeze in business charges. Cunningham said the move will keep charges as low while “ensuring the underpinning charging regime is fair for everyone, broadly cost-effective and harmonised."

Cunningham added: “The introduction of these charges is expected to generate some £15 million a year additional wholesale revenue for Scottish Water, allowing business charges to be frozen. Without such a move, charges would have to increase by 5% over the period to 2021."

Cunningham unveiled also the Scottish government's consultation seeking business sector views on extending the charging regime to include unmeasured charges, such as surface and road drainage. Proposals include charges phased over a three year period and calculated relative to the existing rateable value-based water service charges rather than historic values.

She said the proposals were "revenue neutral" while adding that they will "affect the charges paid by every business in Scotland."