Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
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Surface water drainage charges plans set out

Changes to the law to protect scout groups, faith groups, amateur sports clubs and other community groups in the North West from unaffordable rises in bills for surface water drainage have been set out for the first time by the Government last week.

Secretary of State Hilary Benn announced in September that the Government would legislate to enable water companies to operate a concessionary charge scheme for surface water drainage charges, tackling the problems that have been seen in parts of the country with community organisation’s bills going up by hundreds or thousands of pounds.

The details have been published as part of the Flood and Water Management Bill last week.  Water companies will be enabled by law to operate a concessionary scheme for certain community organisations or groups – it would be up to the water company to decide which groups should receive the concessionary charge although the Government will provide guidance to water companies which will be subject to consultation.

Hilary Benn said:

“These groups shouldn’t be in a position where they’re worrying about paying their bills, and the changes we’ve set out will ensure that they can get on with the fantastic job they do in our communities.  We announced recently that we would legislate to make this happen, and today we’ve set out exactly what we want that legislation to look like.  I am grateful to all the groups who have been campaigning on this issue so effectively.”

Notes to editors

  1. The planned changes to the law on surface water drainage charges have been published as part of the Flood and Water Management Bill today: www.defra.gov.uk/environment/flooding/policy/fwmb/index.htm
  2. Surface water drainage charges are the charges that water and sewerage companies levy for the removal and treatment of rain that falls on roofs, car parks and other non-permeable surfaces and drains into public sewers.  The cost is approximately £600million per annum.
  3. On 15 July, Huw Irranca-Davies met cubs and scouts from around the country, and pledged to help groups disproportionately affected by these charges if the water companies and Ofwat couldn’t come to an acceptable solution www.defra.gov.uk/news/2009/090714a.htm.
  4. The legislation in the Flood and Water Management Bill would enable water and sewerage companies in England and Wales to operate concessionary schemes for community premises where companies switch, or have already switched, to site area charging for surface water drainage, and require Ofwat to allow companies to exercise their discretion in the design and operation of schemes.
  5. In the meantime any group or organisation who feels that their site area bill has been miscalculated should contact their water company.
  6. Four of the ten water and sewerage companies in England and Wales have switched to site area charging for surface water drainage (Northumbrian Water, Severn Trent Water, United Utilities and Yorkshire Water).
  7. Over 45,000 people have signed a No10 e-petition calling on the issue to be resolved.
  8. The independent Walker Review of charging for household water and sewerage services is currently looking at issues around water affordability for household customers.  The Review’s interim report was published on 29 June and is available via the Defra web site.  The final report is expected later this year.

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