New charities utilities proposal unveiled

New charities on lower incomes may no longer have to pay water and sewerage charges, according to a proposal by the Scottish Government.

A consultation has been launched on whether the scheme should cover charities and voluntary organisations with a turnover of less than £75,000 a year.

It would alter the present scheme, which applies to organisations that qualified in 1999 but does not include newly-formed charities.

The change would raise the threshold and remove the exemption from organisations which now have a higher turnover averaged over the past three years.

Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “The third sector is essential to Scotland’s well-being and prosperity. However, many organisations within the sector operate on low incomes and water and sewerage charges can be a significant burden.

“Since the creation of Scottish Water in 2002, the third sector has benefited from a scheme originally designed to exempt small organisations from water and sewerage charges. Many of these organisations are now much larger, so it is only fair that we review the scheme and bring it up to date so newer charities can also benefit.

“I recognise that such a scheme comes at a price to other customers. It is therefore essential that we find the right balance between those who benefit from exemption and those who must bear the cost.”

Extending the scheme would mean up to 5,000 third-sector organisations would be exempt from the charges, the Scottish Government said.

There are currently about 5,800 members of the exemption scheme but the Government says it is likely a number of those are no longer in existence.

The consultation will run until February 14 next year.

Martin Sime, chief executive of the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, said: ” The current system is unnecessarily complicated, so it’s encouraging that we now have this important chance to develop a simpler and more effective approach.

“It’s vital that exemption from water and sewerage charges continues for smaller third-sector organisations which make a huge contribution to communities in all parts of Scotland.”