THE introduction of water and sewage charges in the North has been roundly criticised by a West Belfast MLA who said people will 'revolt' if they are implemented.

On 20 September the British Secretary of State Chris Heaton-Harris ordered the Department for Infrastructure to draw up consultation on introducing water and sewage charges in the North.

Heaton-Harris' reason for doing so was stated as drawing up measures "to support budget sustainability and [to] raise additional revenue". However it is widely believed it is part of a political plan to force the DUP to end their continuing boycott of the North's Executive over issues to do with the post-Brexit Irish Sea trade border.

The consultation does not offer any way for citizens to state their opposition to the implementation of water charges and instead asks a range of questions about the best way to start making people pay for water and questions on who should pay the most and who should be eligible for relief.

The consultation asks about three other revenue raising options: the removal of the domestic allowance for non-domestic customers; charging customers for domestic septic tank desludging; and recovering the cost of roads drainage from all customers.

The consultation runs for 14 weeks from 7 December 2023, closing on 13 March 2024.

West Belfast People Before Profit MLA Gerry Carroll said: “Water charges are regressive, deeply unpopular, and are designed to punish working class people,” he said.

“We already pay for water through the rates system - people should not have to pay twice. 

“The Secretary of State and his Tory colleagues think they can ram through water charges in the absence of an Assembly. But the real opposition to water charges has always come from communities who marched in their thousands to oppose such austerity measures in the past. 

“We have given the Tories and their functionaries fair warning; try to introduce water charges and you will face revolt.”

The consultation questions can be accessed and viewed here.