Water charges deferred for three years

March 11, 2013

By Christine Keighery

The introduction of water charges was once again ruled out by the Stormont Executive last week. The decision taken last Tuesday led to legislation being passed that there would be no water charges in Northern Ireland until at least 2016.

The Department of Regional Development will continue to cover the cost of water provision in Northern Ireland at a cost of almost £300 million over the next three years.

DRD Minister and Newry and Armagh MLA, Danny Kennedy said the Bill showed commitment that charges would not be introduced during the current mandate.

He admitted however that the bill failed to address the longterm policy issues about how the service would be governed.

“These questions are rightly of interest to this Assembly and the subject of much debate, but they are beyond the scope of this Bill,” the Minister said.

Alliance MLA Stewart Dickson also supported the Minister’s view, describing the Water and Sewerage Services (Amendment) Bill as a “sticking plaster” which failed to address the future arrangements for water provision.

“We have to pass this because we actually have no alternative, because successive Ministers have failed to accept the reality that current arrangements are unsustainable,” he said.

The controversial issue of water charges has been consistently deferred since Northern Ireland Water Service became a Government-owned company called Northern Ireland Water (NIW) in April 2007.

The new legislation means that the issue will not be back on the table until 2016.