Concessions Won On Water Charges Relief

North East SNP MSP Richard Lochhead has praised the efforts of the voluntary sector in their campaigning since 1999 to prevent the withdrawal of water charges reliefs. Mr Lochhead was speaking after the debate on the Water Industry Bill, where his attempts to guarantee relief from charges for charitable bodies were defeated by 65 votes to 49. Mr Lochhead, who has led an SNP campaign to maintain reliefs for charities, welcomed a further concession from the government that they would provide ring-fenced support for hospices facing increased water charges.

Mr Lochhead commented:

“Although it is disappointing that we have not enshrined a guarantee in the Bill to give charities relief from charges, I am nevertheless heartened by the number of concessions that the voluntary sector and the SNP have forced from the government.

“The campaign over the last two years has seen the government delay the withdrawal of reliefs on two occasions and come up with three different schemes that will offer assistance to charities. We have come from a position where the government wasn’t offering a penny, to a situation where many bodies, especially local groups, will get exemption from charges.

“The government still hasn’t gone far enough but they have conceded the principle of helping charities with the costs of water services. Even today, the Minister made a commitment to giving ring-fenced funding for increased charges faced by hospices.

“We now need similar concessions to care homes, nursing homes, and other charities who will suffer as a result of increased charges. The fight will go on for assistance for the many charities who will lose out as a result of today’s decision.”

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