Water charge review recommendations to go to Executive

The first of two reports on the review of water and sewerage services is out, and the Regional Development minister is low-key in his response, and is taking the recommendations to the Northern Ireland Executive – [for some collective responsibility? – Ed]. The BBC report indicates a couple of important points. Firstly, according to the report, the review estimated that we already pay £160 for water and sewerage services. Secondly when the new charges come in, in 2009, as well as the £160 we’ll pay on average an extra £120 – although this report quotes an average of £145. It also appears that the extra charge, rather than both charges will be identified as a water charge in the rates bill and will be based on property values. I’ll try to confirm that if I can find the report. [See below the fold] No word on those existing contracts.. Adds Report available here – direct link to pdf file here And The We Won’t Pay Campaign’s reaction hereUpdate Now that I’ve had a chance to read the report there is word on those contracts.

Northern Ireland Water’s contract with Crystal Alliance should be fundamentally reviewed.

And it now looks like the total charge will be identified as a water and sewerage charge.

Householders’ payments for water and sewerage services should be clearly and separately identified on their rates bill and earmarked for Northern Ireland Water (2.36)

Now here’s an interesting recommendation that the Finance minister will have to look at

Despite the potential costs to the NI Block, there should be at least a partial waiver of the dividend extracted from NIW by DRD, such that customers will pay no more than they would under a debt financed model (6.9)

More of those recommendations

NIW’s contract with Crystal Alliance should be fundamentally reviewed, given that our recommendations will considerably alter the nature and scale of the work required (7.5)

From 2008/9 liability for the costs of road drainage should be transferred from sewerage users to the Roads Service (7.8)

The Reasonable Cost Allowance Scheme for developers should be reviewed to ensure that it is cost reflective and is operated at no cost to other users (7.11)

NIW assets which have already been identified as surplus should be disposed of to maximise their value to customers and taxpayers (7.17)

The Regulator should review NIW’s portfolio of assets with a view to identifying additional assets which are surplus to requirements and disposing of them (7.17)

Update In the comments zone John O’Farrell points to the ICTU response

And here’s another interesting paragraph from the Review’s report

4.21 In the context of demands for a “green dowry”, we have discovered that at the time of privatisation in England and Wales, Northern Ireland received an adjustment through the Barnett formula in respect of the restructuring costs associated with the privatisation process. We understand that this added £50m annually to the NI Block, and that it is continuing to be paid. This and other factors will need to be taken into account in weighing up the case for seeking an additional contribution from the Treasury in respect of past underinvestment. This money could contribute to the affordability payments which we will consider in the next report.

More detail on those budgetary considerations

Impact on the NI Block

8.9 Our recommendation on reducing the rates will cost the NI Block £109m annually relative to NIO ministers’ proposals.

8.10 Our recommendation on the dividend would cost the Block around £7m. It might also result in a once off charge of around £12m.

8.11 Our recommendation on road drainage would cost the Block an estimated £25m, on the assumption that road drainage accounts for around 15% of allowed sewerage revenue.

reasons to be cheerful