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  • Roger Milne

Stormont ministers reject domestic water charging

Stormont’s two top ministers have ruled out the introduction of domestic water charges in Northern Ireland.

The UK government has made the release of a £3.3 bn package to support the return of devolution dependent on the newly formed executive in Belfast committing to introduce its own additional revenue-raising measures.

Water charging is not the only option open to Stormont to raise extra money for public services, but it is one of the more significant potential measures. However, Sinn Fein First Minister, Michelle O’Neill, has made clear her opposition to such a move.

O’Neill’s stance chimes with views expressed by DUP deputy First Minister, Emma Little-Pengelly, who said it was unsustainable to ask people to pay more for “poor public services”.

O’Neill insisted that the UK government needed to shoulder the burden and deliver a “proper funding model” for Northern Ireland. “I’m saying very clearly, no to water charges,” she told the BBC.

“I’m saying very clearly that you can’t burden people who are living through a cost of living crisis with additional household bills whilst their services and public services are declining. That’s not the right spot for us to be”.

In 2007, the then Northern Ireland minister, Peter Hain, abandoned moves to introduce domestic water charges at the eleventh hour because of a fierce campaign backed by all political parties.

However, it is possible that domestic water charging could yet become a bargaining  counter during funding settlement negotiations between Stormont and Westminster.

A spokesperson for the Northern Ireland Office said: "As with any other administrations in the UK, the executive needs to make choices to support stability, prosperity, and sustainable public services."

The UK Treasury is due to write to the Northern Ireland Executive shortly setting  out funding details and the associated conditions.


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