As a result of the switch by some water companies from the rateable value to a site area method of calculating surface water drainage charges some community groups experienced unaffordable water charges. As part of the Flood and Water Management Act this new guidance will protect such community groups.
Environment Minister Richard Benyon said:
‘We want to make sure that community and voluntary groups do not face unaffordable water bills. In some cases this part of the bill had become so high that it was threatening the future of many scouts, sports and church groups. Now such bills will be fair and affordable.’
The draft guidance will be seeking views on:
- Identifying the need for companies to implement concessionary schemes;
- Which community groups should benefit from any such schemes;
- Setting an affordable charge; and
- The impact on other customers.
A wide range of interested parties are being consulted, including water and sewerage companies, community organisations, Ofwat and the Consumer Council for Water.
The consultation can be found at archive.defra.gov.uk/corporate/consult/surface-charges/index.htm and the final guidance will be issued later this year.
Surface water drainage (SWD) charges are the charges that water and sewerage companies levy for the removal and treatment of rains that falls on roofs and car parks etc and drains into public sewers. Historically these have been decided according to the rateable value of the property. The switch to site area charging for SWD for non-household companies by some companies meant that charges were levied according to the impermeable site area of each individual premises.
The Flood and Water Management Act 2010 (Clause 43) enables water and sewerage companies to operate concessionary schemes for community groups for SWD charges. This means that the Secretary of State can issue guidance to companies that are based wholly or mainly in England on the need for and the design of concessionary schemes. Companies are required to have regard to this guidance and Ofwat will ensure that this is the case.