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GORDON HENDERSON MP

FOR SITTINGBOURNE & SHEPPEY

Rain Tax could hit Age Concern and other local groups

Gordon Henderson this week called on the Government to take immediate action to protect voluntary groups across Swale from the threat of soaring water charges.

As a result of Government guidance, charges for surface water drainage are being introduced by some water companies, dubbed the ‘rain tax’. Many churches, scout groups, amateur sports clubs and charities, such as Age Concern, will pay hundreds of pounds more in higher bills, in some cases amounting to a third of their yearly revenue.

Currently Southern Water does not charge the ‘rain tax’, but the water regulator, Ofwat, is urging it to review its charging policy and is encouraging the company to start site-area charging for non-domestic customers as from next year.

Such charging by site area falls disproportionately on churches and sports clubs which often have large roofs, a large open area or a sizeable car park. The new charges could cost the Church of England £15 million a year. The Scout Association estimate that the changes could cost scout huts £500 a year, equivalent to 25 to 30 per cent of their yearly income. Such voluntary groups currently have exemptions or discounts for business rates, but this will not extend to water rates.

While churches, scouts and amateur sports clubs are being threatened by these unfair water charges, Ministers have sat on their hands and refused to accept responsibility. Conservatives are calling on the Government to use the forthcoming Flood and Water Management Bill to ensure that water companies are given the freedom they need to protect places of worship, scouts and guides groups, and community amateur sports clubs from unacceptably high charges. Water companies should be able to levy ‘social tariffs’.

Gordon said:
‘It is time to axe this unfair ‘rain tax’ before it has an affect on local churches and voluntary groups.

‘Currently Southern Water does not make this charge, and for that we can be grateful, but my big fear is that this time next year things will have changed and local charities, such as Age Concern, are going to receive a nasty shock.’

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