Howard's Way 9 March 2006

Contributed by editor on Mar 09, 2006 - 12:08 AM


HOWARD'S WAY.... a weekly column from Michael Howard MP

March 2006<IMG height=195 hspace=10 src="images/michaelhoward3.jpg" width=130 align=right vspace=10 border=0>

Many readers will undoubtedly be concerned by the Government’s decision to permit the Folkestone and Dover Water Company to introduce water metering.

I have no objection in principle to the introduction of water metering. The proposition that the more you use the more you pay is, after all, one that is widely accepted in the other staples of life such as food and electricity.

But I am concerned that proper safeguards should be in place to help those who may not be able to afford higher charges. We are told that metering will not lead to higher charges for 70% of us. But that means that it is likely to lead to higher charges for 30% of us. And that 30% is likely to include some large families on low incomes and other people whose budgets are fully stretched and who would find it very difficult to pay more.

Some assistance is available now. Those in receipt of income support or jobseeker’s allowance may be able to arrange for payments to be deducted directly from their benefit to pay their water bill. Help is also available from the EOS Foundation, a charity that has been established and financed by a number of water companies including Folkestone and Dover Water. In some circumstances help may also be given with the essential bills. Details can be obtained from the EOS Foundation, PO Box 42, Peterborough PE3 8XH.

But there is clearly a case for looking again at the extent to which these arrangements can be improved now that we know metering is to be introduced.

The Consumer Council for Water has come up with a number of ideas and I shall be asking Ministers to examine them. They have been reluctant to do so in the past but the introduction of metering changes things. I am sure that other water companies will soon follow Folkestone and Dover’s example and the Government must think again.