Water charge hike could ‘push businesses over the edge’

A RISE in water charges could push some local businesses into closing, a Mid-Ulster MLA has warned.

SDLP Assemblyman Patsy McGlone was speaking after an increase of over 8 per cent was applied to unmetered non-domestic water and sewerage bills this week.

Metered businesses will also see a rise if 7 per cent on their combined bill, which took effect from Monday.

Mr McGlone said the move was unsustainable for small to medium sized businesses who he said could be paying over the odds because of the valuation of their property.

Mr McGlone said: “The decision to increase the cost of water and sewerage to businesses by significantly over the rate of inflation could push many over the edge.

“In the current difficult economic climate any increase in the cost of doing business simply adds to the pressure many are already under. An increase that is significantly above inflation could put some out of business altogether.

“Small businesses and shops will be hit hardest by these increases as they may have small water usage but are often paying over the odds because the bills are assessed by the value of the property.

“I have asked the Regional Development Minister whether any assessment has been made of the impact on small and medium-sized businesses of this above inflation increase in water charges, and what consideration has been given to a relief scheme to help businesses who may struggle with these bills.

“It is a cause of concern that in these difficult economic times we are seeing the cost of doing business increased arbitrarily.

“The Executive is supposed to be helping the private sector to grow in order to rebalance our economy. Instead of which the barriers to success in the private sector are being built higher in order to supplement the funding of what is, after all, a public body,” he said.