The environment department (DEFRA) is consulting on proposals for a scheme allowing water companies to subsidise surface water drainage charges for community groups in England.
The move follows a public outcry that some groups, such as scout troops and church congregations were unable to pay new area-based charges levied on their premises.
The charges are being introduced by water companies for non-domestic customers following guidance from Ofwat. Based on the impermeable area of properties, they are proportionate to loads placed on the sewers and set incentives for dischargers to reduce rainwater drainage.
However, many voluntary groups have been surprised by the increase in charges as they previously enjoyed exemptions from rate-based charges or had properties with very low rateable values.
DEFRA makes clear that it wants water companies to make use of the facility it is proposing, but says that individual firms will have to decide whether and how to offer concessions.
The document includes guidance on defining community groups, and specifies that premises used but not owned by such groups should be covered if the group is responsible for meeting the drainage bills.
Severn Trent Water’s existing cross-subsidy scheme is given as an example, which is estimated to cost other customers up to £3.50 per year on their bills.