Thousands of households face hardship
Although the Government has phased in the payment of water charges over three years, the level of water charges rises steeply. While the average household will be paying a water bill of around £153 in the first year, this will increase to £460 when the full bill comes in year three. Poorer households will pay £60 and £180 respectively. However, this concession will only last for the first three years of water charges. There is no guarantee that price relief will continue beyond 2010. Once the Government ceases to be the owner of the water company any concessions will be null and void. The new private owners of the water company will not be bound by any commitments given by the Government. In these circumstances water bills for all households, particularly the poorest, are likely to rise rapidly.
The introduction water charges and
rising rates bills will push thousands of households into poverty and hardship.
By 2010, the average household will be paying a combined water and rates
bill of £1,500. While this is around the same as people pay
in England and Wales, the impact here will be much greater. This
point was made in a recent report from the Joseph Roundtree Foundation
which found that despite Northern Ireland having lower income levels and
a higher number of people on benefits than any other part of the UK; its
actual poverty levels were in line with the UK average. The
main reason given for this is that “housing costs” (which include rates
and water bills) are much lower here than any other region. However,
with the introduction of water charges and increasing rates, that cushion
will disappear. Given that both these charges are based on domestic
property values, which are rising rapidly, the fall in the deposable income
of families could be substantial. The inevitable consequence of water
charges will an increase in poverty.