30/09/2009

Options 'Open' As Water Charge Waits

Fresh legislation has been voted through at Stormont to further delay the imposition of water charges for NI.

The Assembly has decided to "kept its options open" after new legislation was passed allowing them to be put off for another three years.

The government can now continue to subsidise the cost of water while a long-term solution is considered.

NI Regional Development Minister Conor Murphy recently said it is "not in his gift" to rule water charges in or out, comments that came soon after the Finance Minister Sammy Wilson conceded the Executive will have to re-examine the issue of charges.

He said last week that putting charges off in 2011 could cost up to £420 million.
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As a result, the Water and Sewerage Services (Amendment) Bill was launched by Mr Murphy who said yesterday the long-term financial implications of deferring water charges were for further Executive discussion.

No decision on deferring or imposing charges has been taken and the Bill simply keeps all options open.

"It gives financial stability to Northern Ireland Water. The extension of the subsidy by three years simply provides for the continuance of current funding arrangements," he told fellow MLAs.

The Regional Development Scrutiny Committee at Stormont also supported the Minister.

See: Shock As Wilson Reveals £370m Cuts

See: Executive Decisions Revealed

(BMcC/KMcA)

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