Subsection (1): the new section 29D of the 2002 Act: Statements regarding charges
120.The new section 29D of the 2002 Act, which is also inserted by subsection (1) of section 21 of the Act, provides for Ministers to issue a statement of policy regarding charges, which must be taken into account by the Commission in its determination of maximum charges under the new section 29B and by Scottish Water and the Commission respectively in making and approving charges schemes under the new section 29A.
121.Subsection (1) provides that for each charge determination specified under section 29B(2), the Scottish Ministers must provide Scottish Water and the Commission with a statement of policy on charges for a given period (as determined under section 29B(2)). This statement is to be prepared with reference to economic as well as other relevant factors.
122.Subsection (2) provides that Ministers’ statement on charges policy should include provision regarding charge harmonisation, and defines that as provision that seeks to ensure that charges under a charges scheme are the same for similar services provided to people in similar categories.
123.Subsection (3) specifies other provisions that Scottish Ministers may include in their statement on charges policy, which must be consistent with the overriding principle of harmonisation as set out in subsection (2). This includes provision regarding: particular services that should be funded through a charge for combined services (subsection (3)(a)); the proportion of Scottish Water’s charge income which different categories of customer should contribute (subsection (3)(b)); fixing the level of charge for specific categories of customer, or by reference to a customer’s liability for council tax (subsection (3)(c)); and for it to cover such other matters as Ministers think fit (subsection (3)(d)). This latter provision will allow Ministers to require continuation of the current link for household customers between their council tax band and their water and sewerage charges. It also provides a mechanism for prescribing reduced charges for certain groups of customers, which will replace the current provision under section 40 of the 2002 Act for Ministers to make regulations reducing charges for customers meeting specific conditions, for example, those in receipt of council tax benefit.
124.Subsection (4) provides that in preparing a statement under this section, Scottish Ministers must have regard to Scottish Water’s duty under section 51(1) of the 2002 Act, when exercising its functions, to act in the way best calculated to contribute to the achievement of sustainable development.
125.Subsection (5) states that Scottish Ministers must consult the Commission, the Convener of the Customer Consultation Panels (representing the Panels as a whole) and Scottish Water before issuing a policy statement on charges under this section.