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Water charges proposed in Northern Ireland

By Matt Reuben

Tuesday 3 May 2016 Student Journalists

Policy implementing water charges could be introduced for the first time in Northern Ireland as a way to boost infrastructure and avoid public service cuts, according to a party manifesto.

The Alliance Party supported the introduction when it launched its campaign last month ahead of the local elections this Thursday.

Northern Ireland Water (NIW), a public company, supplies water across NI. The taxpayer pays for the domestic housing supply costing about £200 million a year.

Last week the party’s deputy leader, Naomi Long, said in a column published in the Belfast News Letter that the introduction will save money in the long run with more for your pound under their proposals than the current set up. It would also remove the risk of being fined by the EU over breaching water directives.

Long went on to say it was not about privatising the water service but about providing a mutualisation model which would give NIW a long-term funding scheme.

It is believed, realistically, the amount of money available to the Northern Ireland Executive – similar set-up to the Cabinet – will not rise in correspondence with inflation in the next few years meaning that NIW is one of the organisations under significant financial pressure.

Water charges were almost introduced in Northern Ireland in 2007 shortly before the Democratic Unionist Party and Sinn Fein agreed to enter into a power-sharing agreement.

Putting the charges into force has always faced strong opposition. Around the time of the threat, a message scrawled across a bridge that links thousands of motorists to the East Belfast’s M3 read ‘Say No to Water Charges!’.

In the Homes Fit for Study research, published in March by the National Union of Students, reported ‘two-fifths [of students] struggle to pay energy bills in the private rented sector’.

One student said the popular Northern Irish agriculture industry will be hardest hit whilst another said those ‘living in private accommodation could be subject to poor hygiene as living costs are already poor enough as it is’.

The report said 40 per cent of students had ‘one or more bills included in their rent’ with water being included for 29 per cent of respondents.

However with the other 71 per cent facing additional water charges on top of their rent, students already under financial strain could be left with a tough decision: to go with a half decent meal or go without showering and maintaining good hygiene.



Journalist Matt

Yello! My name is Matt, I'm 19 and I'm in my first year studying journalism with marketing at Ulster University in Northern Ireland. Before that, I attained a BTEC Level 3 in multi-platform journalism with social media. Most of my work has been published on my blog. I wouldn't say I've had much work published apart from that, except for a piece that ended up in my church young people's magazine which has over 500 print subscribers. I am interested in politics and the environment but I’ll write about anything. I also have a passion for investigative journalism. I aspire to be a journalist in one of these areas, particularly in the broadcast side, so this opportunity will get my foot in the door.