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  • Roger Milne

Domestic water charges proposed for Northern Ireland

Five options for introducing domestic water charges in Northern Ireland have been proposed and are now under consultation.They include a flat rate charge for all households, a charge related to the value of houses and the introduction of water meters.

The consultation was ordered by the Northern Ireland secretary of state  Chris Heaton-Harris as part of a broader consultation on revenue raising. Any decision on water charges would have to be made by a Stormont Executive or, in its absence, the Northern Ireland secretary.

Unlike other parts of the UK, households in Northern Ireland are not billed for water.  The water sector in Northern Ireland is mainly funded by government resources rather than consumer charges.

The proposals are:

  • a flat rate charge that would apply equally to all households;

  • a charge based on the capital value of the property, along the lines of household rates;

  • a hybrid charge with a flat rate element and variable charge based on the capital value of the property;

  • the use of water meters; and

  • a hybrid based on a flat rate charge and metering.

Recent analysis by the independent Northern Ireland Fiscal Commission suggested about £350m could be raised in water charges every year. The consultation paper suggests that meeting the day-to-day running costs of Northern Ireland Water would require about £172m with a further £155m needed to cover infrastructure spending.

The level of revenue generated would be dependent on key issues like the length of any phasing-in period and discounts for poorer households. Currently development in much of the region is on hold because of outdated water infrastructure due to chronic and historic underfunding.

The consultation paper also suggested  other options including charging customers for domestic septic tank desludging and recovering the cost of roads drainage from all customers.


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