Alex Easton MLA has today slammed the Secretary of State for starting a consultation process to introduce Water charges.

Speaking today Alex Easton MLA said:

Water is vital to life and an efficient sanitation system is vital to the health of everyone in our society. We saw during the pandemic how we share responsibility for public health, and access to clean water for all is a basic pillar of our public health system. For too long there has been an extreme lack of investment in our infrastructure, which is now having a major impact on the system today. That leaves us the question, how are we going to pay for the required work? We need to have a mature conversation about where public money is being spent and wasted before we decide to increase the burden on hard working families.

For decades we have already paid for water as part of our Rates bills. Our bills used to be itemized years ago, but this was quietly removed in recent years. The itemization needs to be reinstated so we can see how much we already pay for water infrastructure. The signal this would send out is worrying since water is equally vital to all. I am concerned that separating water charges could lead to a greater division between richer and poorer members of society. I am concerned about those people who are now already making choices between heating their homes and eating, having the added worry about affording clean water. Worrying about what it’s going to cost them to run the washing machine, or have showers for a whole family for example.

Clearly our infrastructure needed to be fixed as we are leaking away lots of our water due to the lack of investment. This needs addressed in a manner that does not add stress to the households already struggling to pay bills. Concerns have been raised many times about the governance procedures at NI Water, as well as the value for money aspect. The issue is complex, but government bodies and NI Water getting there house in order and avoiding wastage is a priority that must come higher than implementing more charges on our already struggling communities.

I would also take issue with the consultation process that has been launched last week. There are four questions to answer, none of which make it easy for people to say they don’t want Water Charges, so people need to be clear on answering the questions that they they don’t agree with separate charging for water. I would also remind everyone that the old North Down Council was opposed to Water charges and hope that is the same for the new Ards and North Down Council, I remain opposed to water charges as you all ready pay for your water in your rates.