Northern Ireland

Consultation opens on introduction of water charges in Northern Ireland

The consultation gives an overview of potential water and sewerage charging revenue raising options which could be introduced (PA)
The consultation gives an overview of potential water and sewerage charging revenue raising options which could be introduced (PA) The consultation gives an overview of potential water and sewerage charging revenue raising options which could be introduced (PA)

A consultation on introducing water and sewerage charges has opened in Northern Ireland.

The Department for Infrastructure said options are to be considered following a direction from Secretary of State Chris Heaton-Harris in the absence of locally elected ministers.

The Stormont Assembly and executive have been effectively collapsed for more than a year-and-a-half amid DUP protest action over unionist concerns around post-Brexit trading arrangements.

In the absence of ministers, departments are being led by senior civil servants with limited powers.

Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris
Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris (Liam McBurney/PA)

Mr Heaton-Harris set a budget earlier this year amid challenging financial circumstances, with Stormont having two years to pay off an almost £300 million overspend.

Meanwhile it has been estimated that departments need hundreds of millions of pounds in extra funding to maintain public services at their current level this year, and hundreds of millions more are needed to settle a series of public sector pay disputes in the region

Mr Heaton-Harris has asked all departments to launch public consultations on potential revenue-raising measures for the region.

The consultation, launched on Thursday, gives an overview of potential water and sewerage charging revenue raising options which could be introduced.

The department said it sets out and seeks views on the main pathways through which water and sewerage charging could be introduced, how a relief scheme to protect vulnerable people might be developed, and how charging might be billed and collected.

It also asks about three other revenue raising options: the removal of the domestic allowance for non-domestic customers; charging customers for domestic septic tank desludging; and recovering the cost of roads drainage from all customers.

The consultation will close on March 13 2024.