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Close condems water charges

April 3, 2003 12:00 AM

"It is of great concern to me that we appear to be entering into a period of public consultation on the future of the water service without the full facts being presented to the people."

"Firstly, I cannot accept the constant assertion from the Government that in Northern Ireland we do not pay for tap water. We do, through something called the regional rate and block grant, and I believe that the Government must stop insinuating that water is provided free of charge in Northern Ireland. It is not a direct charge, but water is clearly still paid for, and I fully expect to see a substantial drop in rates if direct charges are introduced. The Government has highlighted how households in Great Britain pay more through their Council Tax and other charges. Yet it has not highlighted the higher costs faced by the public here in many other respects, such as fuel, the lower standard of living or the lower level of wages. It is, let us not forget, because of the Government's lack of investment in the Water Service for the past three decades that has led to it reaching the state it is in. It is certainly not the fault of the end user that most water in the system has already leaked into the ground before it reaches the tap."

"Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, I am highly concerned that the Government has appeared to rule the provision of water meters out at this point. While couched in ambiguous language, it is clear that the Government does not intend to pursue this option in any meaningful manner. From the wording in the consultation document, it appears as though the Government is intent on killing off debate on the use of water meters."

"It is simply not good enough to say that the Northern Ireland Executive had effectively ruled out water meters, and there are no plans to reverse this decision. I have encountered numerous ratepayers who are angry that they are being denied the choice of the fairest possible system of charging. I have a meter for electricity charges and there is a meter on the petrol pump when I fill up my car. The bill is not based on what car I drive, but how much I use. I would also point out that metering offers an incentive to users to cut down on unnecessary use of water, and it could lead to environmental benefits."

"I believe that it would be entirely wrong and undemocratic of an unaccountable Government to press ahead with this review without ruling water metering firmly in. I believe there is greater public support for metering than previously considered, both by the Government and the former Executive, and the use of metering should certainly be an option for those who wish to avail of it."

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