Charges? I don’t think it’s going to happen

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NI Water chiefs poured cold water on suggestions the absence of a functioning Executive at Stormont could lead to water charges by the back door, during a briefing of Derry City and Strabane District Council’s Environment and Regeneration Committee.

However, the firm’s top officials warned it was facing a significant funding shortfall despite having to maintain a water network that extends further than all of the roads in the North combined.

NI Water is presently in the third year of a six year price control spending plan (PC15) which runs from 2015 to 2021.

It needs £2.8billion to fulfil this but only has £1.7billion and is facing a shrinking funding allocation of £990m.

Despite this, the public should not be concerned about water charges, according to Martin Mailey, the utility’s North West Area Manager, who said he didn’t think they were likely.

Mr. Mailey was responding to Independent Councillor Patsy Kelly, who asked if NI Water management believed that with a “non-existent Executive,” there was the possibility that “water metering and water charges were coming down the line for domestic users.”

Mr. Mailey said that while all new water connections have a facilty for metering this is not for the purpose of charging.

“I don’t think it’s going to happen,” said Mr. Mailey.

Ciaran Nicell, NI Water Customer Insight Senior Manager, concurred, telling the committee: “At this stage we have no visibility of water charges for domestic properties.”

The council area benefits from 8.1 per cent of NI Water’s capital spend and a considerable percentage of NI Water’s Water & Sewerage £61m annual Capital Maintenance Expenditure for the PC15 period.