29/11/2006

Government launches water charges information leaflet

The government has today launched a leaflet aimed at householders, businesses, farmers and organisations in Northern Ireland, to ensue that they are given clear information about what the introduction of charges means for them.

The average water and sewerage bill, which is due out next April is expected to be around £100.

Launching the "Water Charges Made Clear" leaflet, Department of Regional Development Minister David Cairns, said: "The leaflet and public awareness campaign is focussed on providing clear information about the introduction of water and sewerage charges.

“This includes information on: how charges will be phased; how much people will pay; how bills will be calculated and how they can be paid.

"I firmly believe that the new charges being introduced next April are fair and affordable to all. A key feature of the arrangements we have developed is a Reduced Tariff for those on low incomes - a protection that goes far beyond anything available elsewhere in the UK.

"We know that over a quarter of all Northern Ireland residents receive benefits that will entitle them to the Reduced Tariff. This leaflet explains how people can find out if they are entitled to the Reduced Tariff and what to do if they are not currently claiming benefits they are entitled to.”

The Minister continued: "Government has also made clear its strategy to introduce widespread domestic metering over the years ahead. We have decided that pensioners should be able to choose to have a meter if this helps them to have lower bills. This leaflet explains how pensioners can apply for a water meter.

"The new charges we are asking people to pay will help to improve the quality of our drinking water, better protect the environment and sustain economic growth by funding major improvements to the water and sewerage infrastructure. But this campaign is not about making the case for water charges, it is about providing information to people before bills arrive in just under five months time."

Leaflets will soon be delivered to every home, business, farm and organisation.

Details on the Reduced Tariff and how customers can find out if they are entitled to help with their bills are included in the Domestic Guide. A leaflet dealing with non-domestic charges will follow.

A combination of the Reduced Tariff and bills being phased in over three years means that many people in April next year will face a bill of between £30 and £60, however for the average household, it will mean a bill of around £100. The highest bill anyone will pay is just under £260 for the first year.

Average bills in three years time when charges are fully phased in will be around £340 (the projected England & Wales average charge) with the highest bills being capped at around £800. Those entitled to the Reduced Tariff, an estimated 200,000 householders will pay something between £100 and £200 in 2009/10 depending on the value of their home.

The public can get further information from the website www.waterchargesni.gov.ukor by calling the Free phone number 0800 051 5445.

(EF)

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