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14 June 2007 Edition

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Water service review

Sinn Féin Minister of Regional Development Conor Murphy is to implement an independent review of the water and sewage services.
The British government’s initial attempt to impose punitive water charges spawned public outcry and a cross party commitment to find a better way forward. As minister with responsibility for the water service,  Murphy has put the issue of water rates “top of my personal goals”.
A review is set to look at all aspects of water and sewage provision in the north and the financing of upgrading the service. “There has been major under investment and there is now a big responsibility to resolve it,” said Murphy.
“I want to find a way of financing it, approaching it in a different way and taking a very honest look at what can be done. It is a collective challenge for the executive which we hope we can resolve in the coming year,”he said.
However,  Fred Cobain of the UUP who is the chairperson of the Regional Development Committee has called for Murphy’s resignation on the grounds that  he had devised proposals for a review into financing water services without taking into consideration the committee’s ideas and had broken a promise.
“At a meeting a couple of weeks ago, the minister gave us an undertaking that he would give the committee an input into the terms of reference,” complained Cobain to the Belfast Newsletter.
But according to Conor Murphy: “The deferment of water rates for 2007-8 offers only a small window of opportunity to find a viable alternative to the British government’s imposition of punitive water charges.  The timescale for the review is therefore challenging. The committee was invited to make comment on May 16 and asked for its input by the end of the month. Nothing was received until 6pm on 6 June,” says Conor.
“Curiously Fred Cobain was not apologetic about the tardy nature of the committee’s response. Instead he attempted to use the fact that the submission was only made hours before the terms of reference deadline, a deadline agreed by a cross party Executive sub committee, as evidence that the committee was being ignored. It’s political tomfoolery and something his electorate won’t thank him for.
“During the election campaign, the delivery of the water service emerged as a key concern amongst the electorate. The electorate expect their representatives to participate fully in the decision making process not get side tracked by political shadow boxing,” said Murphy.
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