TENNIS clubs, churches and Scout huts across Birkenhead should save thousands of pounds after United Utilities agreed to suspend its controversial “rain tax”.
The water company planned to increase charges by as much as 1300%, after being pressured by regulator Ofwat to hike rates to pay for rainwater that runs off hard surfaces into public drains.
Scout groups which own their own building were facing huge hikes, substantially reducing the provision of activities.
Scouts’ Merseyside spokesman Andrew Parle said: “I don’t think United Utilities (UU) realised the impact their charges would have.
“Scout groups may have a bill of £50, which would be going up to £300 and because of the nature of scouting, we wouldn’t be able to offer as many activities.”
UU even support 65th Birkenhead troop but they were not exempt.
The Scouting Association also estimated an increase of 2,000% for small churches.
One tennis club, Wallasey Manor, was facing a rise of more than 2000%, and treasurer Tony Doyle concedes that if intervention had not arrived the facility would have closed “after about two to three years”.
Tony told the News: “We received a bill last year which totalled £213, for taking water away from the land, and that has risen by £5,700 over a three year period.
“That meant in the first year it was going to be £2,000, £4,000 in the second year and £6,000 in the third year.”
But a Downing Street petition in opposition to the charges attracted 2,000 signatures and the Conservative party has tabled an Early Day Motion calling on the government to intervene.
In response, UU has now agreed to suspend the charges for a year.
A UU spokesperson said: “We have been listening to the concerns of some groups and looking for ways of minimising the impact on organisations.
“We will not phase in any more of the charges for these customers until Ofwat agrees we can implement a longer term solution.”
Liscard councillor Leah Fraser, who campaigned against the charges, said: “United Utilities should have given more thought to the consequences of their proposals.”
Tony Doyle said: “They obviously didn’t think it through properly and didn’t consult.”