NI: Election focuses on water charges

The Democratic Unionists and Sinn Fein will today focus on the controversial issue of water charges in the North as the Assembly Election enters its final stage.

DUP leader Ian Paisley and Sinn Féin’s Gerry Kelly will release separate documents outlining their party’s policy on water charges which have become one of the main concerns of voters in the Assembly Election.

The documents will be published as the Northern Ireland Green Party and the Progressive Unionist Party launch their manifestos.

The Greens, who are hoping to capture their first Assembly seat on March 7, are expected to state their opposition to water charges in the document which is being launched in Belfast’s Harland and Wolff shipyard.

The Progressive Unionists, whose leader Dawn Purvis is defending the East Belfast seat won by her predecessor David Ervine who died in January, are also expected to demand their abolition.

Water charges are due to be introduced in the North next month.

However, with Northern Ireland’s politicians facing a March 26 deadline to restore devolved government, the pressure is mounting on the parties to state whether they will scrap the controversial tax.

Critics of the British government’s water charge plan argue that Northern ratepayers are already paying for water and sewage services in their domestic rates bills.

They also claim it is unfair that the bills will be based on the value of people’s homes.

Some parties have called for metering instead to ensure people only pay for the volume of water that they use.

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