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Members: Correspondence

Volume 488: debated on Wednesday 25 February 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when he expects the Minister for Farming and the Environment to reply substantively to the letter of 14 October 2008 from the hon. Member for West Worcestershire on water rate charges for scout groups. (256808)

[holding answer 12 February 2009]: I am very aware of the affordability issues faced by some customers, such as scout groups, following the switch to site area charging for surface water drainage by some companies.

Our view is that while the basic polluter pays principle of the guidance is correct, something is clearly very wrong if faith buildings, community amateur sports clubs and scout huts are facing such big increases in their bills, and where there are such marked variations between what is being charged in different areas, by different companies.

Under the powers enshrined in the Water Industry Act 1999, in 2000 the Government issued statutory guidance to Ofwat on water charging policy. Ofwat’s subsequent and more detailed guidance to companies on surface water drainage charging was issued in 2003. Both of these documents addressed the issues surrounding the scale and pace of surface water bill changes for non-domestic, non-business customers and the need for charges to be based only upon the actual area within a property that drains to the public sewer.

We understand that the highest price increases are occurring in the United Utilities area, and that United Utilities now proposes to set its surface water drainage charges for 2009-10 at 2007-08 levels for customers such as faith buildings, community amateur sports clubs and scout huts (i.e. at levels prior to the introduction of site area charging). This is a very welcome step forward although we will continue to monitor this issue and engage further with Ofwat if necessary.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when a reply will be sent to the letter from the right hon. Member for West Derbyshire of 15 August 2008 on water drainage charges for non-profit organisations. (257959)

[holding answer 23 February 2009]: A reply was sent to the right hon. Member on 16 February 2009.