'Rain tax' victory for charities and voluntary organisations

Government legislates to allow water companies to set concessionary rates

Scout groups, churches and amateur sports clubs have won their battle against the controversial ‘rain tax'.

Environment secretary Hilary Benn MP announced yesterday that the Government would step in to halt large increases in charges for surface water drainage for voluntary and community groups by legislating to allow water companies to run concessionary schemes for them.

Some community organisations faced increases in water bills of several hundred per cent under a charging regime for surface water drainage based on the size of premises rather than rateable value.

Water regulator Ofwat had advised that concessionary charges would be discriminatory.

Martin Dales, spokesman for pressure group DontDrainUs.org, which fought the tax on behalf of charities, churches and clubs, welcomed legislation that he said would allow volunteers to use the money they raised for the charitable purposes they existed to provide.

"It is grossly unfair that churchwardens, sports club treasurers and scout leaders have had to bear the intolerable burden of these bills, which has affected their ability to provide services for their members."

An Ofwat spokesman said the regulator welcomed the Government's move. "The devil is in the detail and we will work closely with ministers to ensure all customers get a fair deal," he said.

The new legislation will form part of the Flood and Water Management Bill in the next session of Parliament.

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