12th October 2007


The Consumer Council today gave its full support to the Independent Water
Review Panel’s first report saying it is the best, most practical starting point for getting the right deal for all consumers, particularly those on low incomes. The report confirms that consumers do already pay for water and recommends that they should not pay any more until April 2009 when the proposed average household bill would be two thirds less than expected at around £120, instead of £334.

Eleanor Gill, Chief Executive of the Consumer Council said: “The Panel is rightly focusing on delivering a fair, affordable and transparent deal for all.  Consumers acknowledge that they have to pay for all their public services including water and sewerage, but they don’t want to pay twice, or a penny more than they should.  As we stated, consumers do already pay on average £160 per household for water through their rates.  It is also clear from this report that more is needed for investment in our crumbling water and sewerage system and infrastructure.

“Consumers will rightly ask what these proposals mean for them particularly as the Panel has recommended that water bills are based on property values for the foreseeable future.  All consumers will now pay much less if the Panel’s recommendations are accepted and implemented and there will be improved protection for people who can’t afford to pay – a crucial element of the Panel’s work, which they will report on in December.  

“Our preliminary analysis(1) shows that everyone will pay much less.  For example, a young, low income family living in a semi-detached house in Magherafelt would expect to pay around £97 in April 2009 instead of £294 (67 per cent less).  A young adult living in a terraced house in Belfast would pay £60 instead of £221 (73 per cent less).  An older couple living in a townhouse in Holywood would pay £313 instead of £719 (56 per cent less).

“People will have lower bills than they expected because they will not pay for water twice or pay any more until April 2009 when water will be clearly identified on the rates bill.  Stripping out unfair costs like roads drainage, having one bill with the water payment clearly identifiable and requiring greater efficiency from the water company will ensure that consumers get a fair deal and value for money. 

“The report recommends stopping the current domestic metering policy for now but it doesn’t close the door on metering in the future.  The Consumer Council agrees with the Panel that the starting point must be to establish a fair and affordable system.  It is our view that only when consumers are confident that the payment system is right that the conditions will be right to have a proper, informed and public debate on metering for the future.

“The recommendations in this first report provide the firm basis for a fair, practical and responsible deal for water consumers.  However, the Panel still has much more work to do and will have many valid issues and concerns to address ahead of the publication of its second report in December this year.  The Consumer Council will continue to engage in this important process to ensure that we get the best way forward for consumers.”


(1) The Independent Water Review Panel’s Strand 1 report identifies £84m as the maximum additional revenue to be collected from households in 2009/10. This results in an average domestic bill of £120, about one third of the previous average water charge proposals (£334 average).

In Strand 2 of the IWRP’s report it is highly likely that further significant costs will be identified and can then be removed from the system resulting in further savings and driving down any payments necessary for water and sewerage.

The Consumer Council has been asked by the Regional Development Committee to rerun its total household bill table contained in our research report Driving For a Fair Deal published in June 2007. Our table contains a random selection of ‘real’ cases to show the impact of the new lower cost proposals across different value bands.

Previous proposed water and sewerage  charge 2009-2010Newly proposed water and sewerage charge 2009-2010[1]Decrease in water and sewerage charge Percentage decrease in water and sewerage charge 

Young adult, terrace,





£161.07 73% 






£180.71 70% 

Young Family Semi Detached,


£294£96.82£197.18 67% 






£299.16 60% 

Older Couple townhouse,





£405.52 56% 
Detached Cultra£770 (capped)£461£30940% 
  1. Consumer Council media contact: Susie Brown, telephone, 028 9067 4807 or e-mail, [email protected].  
  2. The Consumer Council is an independent consumer organisation, working to bring about change to benefit Northern Ireland’s consumers. The Council campaigns for high standards of service and protection and a fair deal for all. It also carries out research, gives advice and publishes reports and other publications. It deals with individual complaints about electricity, natural gas, coal, passenger transport and water.
  3. For more information, visit our website at www.consumercouncil.org.uk

[1]Calculated using the same ratio of water (48.45%) and sewerage (51.55%) of old charging scheme. This has been calculated with the standing charge element removed.