Schools campaign to reduce 'too high' water charges

Schools in the north-west of England are campaigning to have their water bills cut because they claim they are being charged double that in the South.

In 2012-3, North West schools typically paid £10,000, while those in the South East were only charged £4,000.

Children at Netherton Moss School in Merseyside have written to United Utilities to protest.

United Utilities said its policy meant domestic households and small companies did not have to subsidise schools.

Figures obtained by Sefton Council from the Department of Education showed schools in the North West paid £27m a year for water charges, while those in the south paid just £11m.

Higher rainfall

The company said it was charging schools for sewerage and drainage of playing fields.

In a statement, United Utilities said the North West's higher population, higher rainfall and industrial legacy meant that wastewater services were "more expensive than in the South East".

Image caption Jean Rogers from Netherton Moss School says it is unfair schools in the north are being penalised

It began charging schools on the size of their drainage in 2010.

In a statement, it said: "Previously they had been subsidising lower bills for schools as the cost had been spread across all customers."

It added: "This is why this way of charging is recognised by consumer groups, regulators and the government as the fairest charging method."

'Absolute disgrace'

If it were to stop charging schools other customers would have to pay more again. Water companies in the South use the rateable value method, which results in lower charges.

Netherton Moss School in Bootle paid more than £20,000 last year, or £111 per child. Jean Rogers, from the school, said it was "unfair" that schools in the North were being "penalised".

Image caption Sue Kerwin and children at St Andrews CE School in Maghull

Sue Kerwin, head teacher at St Andrews Church of England Primary, Maghull, said: "I feel it is not just, because schools are a community asset."

Defra said it was aware of the concerns from schools about surface water drainage charges. It said it had committed to reviewing the guidance to Ofwat and water companies on concessionary schemes.

Related Topics

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites