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Government must act to protect voluntary groups from the "rain tax"-Farron

July 20, 2009 12:00 AM

Local MP Tim Farron has called on the Government to take immediate action to protect voluntary groups across South Lakeland from soaring water bills after changes to the way surface water drainage is charged means voluntary groups could end up paying as much as multi-million pound companies for processing rainwater.

Tim has this week written to local churches throughout South Lakeland to urge them to join the campaign against the unfair charges.

The new charge, which sees water companies bill non-domestic properties for surface water drainage based on the size of their site area instead of the rateable value of the property. Many churches, scout groups and amateur sports clubs will pay hundreds of pounds more in higher bills, in some cases amounting to a third of their yearly revenue.

Currently only four water companies have enforced the so-called "Rain Tax", with the customers of United Utilities here in the North West experiencing the greatest problems, however there is concern that more will follow their example.

Mr Farron last week attended a meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Scout Group to hear evidence about the adverse impact of increases in surface water drainage charges on community and church buildings from national and local Scout leaders.

Commenting Mr Farron said:

"I'm very disappointed that Ofwat, the water industry watchdog, has so far refused to exempt voluntary groups from the new charges or to enforce a fair system.

"As a result, churches, charities and community sports clubs in South Lakeland could end up paying as much as multi-million pound companies for processing rainwater.

"If this is rolled out across the country by the other water companies, the Church of England has estimated that it will cost an extra £15 million - and the total sum facing all faith communities in the country could be around £40 million.

"It is time to axe this unfair 'rain tax'. The Government should use the forthcoming Flood and Water Management Bill to grant Ofwat the authority to introduce social tariffs for charitable groups and voluntary organisations to ensure they are protected from disproportionately high price increases."