Dr Stephen Farry stated: “All the Executive parties campaigned in the Assembly Election on the basis that they would deal with water charges. Simply, passing this onto the regional rate is asking the people of Northern Ireland to pay stealth water charges. This simply won’t wash with anyone.
“The controversial water charges were to be based on the capital value of domestic property. The regional rate is already based on the capital value of property.
“Households will still end up paying for their water twice, but this time through a less transparent process.
“If anything, this approach to water charges makes things worse.
“Just like water charges, the regional rate does not take into account ability to pay. The value of property is a blunt instrument for assessing wealth. It does not take into regard the number of wage-earners, and the size of income in a household.
“Furthermore, this new approach does nothing to address consumption and therefore nothing to protect the environment. People residing in similar valued properties in the same street may have radically different levels of use of water, but will be charged on more or less the same basis.
“There is a strong case for making meters universally available, provided of course that steps are produced to assist low-income families and those with young children. But it seems that the existing limited offer of meters to pensioners is to be withdrawn, leaving those who use relatively little water to pay at the same level of others.
“As the opposition, Alliance will strongly challenge the Executive on these proposals.”