Stephen Farry MLA said: “Alliance is the only party that is prepared to be frank with the people of Northern Ireland over water charges. They have to be considered part of a range of spending and review measures as the Northern Ireland Executive addresses the current financial crisis. No government in the world would seek to address such a financial gap through spending cuts alone.
“There is an urgent requirement for our political leaders to show leadership on this matter. Cheap populism won’t do.
“The continued deferral of water charges costs around £200m every year. This deferral is not funded through the block grant. Therefore, the subsidy for water means that money has to be directed from public services or investment in our economy to cover this.
“Households in Northern Ireland do already pay for water to an extent through the regional rate, although the direct link was broken in 1999. The level of payment is considerably below the level paid by others elsewhere in the United Kingdom.
“This is also an issue of social justice. Any water charge must be fair, and linked to ability to pay. Therefore the less affluent households would pay less, while the more affluent would pay more. Also, it is the less well-off and the vulnerable who depend more on public services. Avoiding water charges means deeper cuts in those public services.”