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Water Charges: Religious Buildings

Volume 488: debated on Wednesday 25 February 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what representations he has received from the General Synod about church water bills; and if he will make a statement. (257842)

My Department has received a number of representations from the Church of England and I am aware that the issue of surface water drainage charges for churches was discussed by the General Synod on 11 February.

The Government support site area charging for surface water drainage in principle. However, it is very wrong that customers such as churches are facing increases in bills of several hundred per cent., and where there are massive variations between what is being charged in different areas by different companies.

I have made this clear to Ofwat as the economic regulator for the water industry. I have also made it clear that increases in bills of this magnitude are not in line with the Government’s guidance on charging issued to Ofwat in 2000, or Ofwat’s more detailed 2003 guidance to the water companies.

It is for individual water companies to prepare their charging schemes and for Ofwat to review and approve them. In response to representations, United Utilities now proposes to set its surface water drainage charges for 2009-10 at 2007-08 levels for places of public religious worship.