Schools welcome cut in water bills

United Utilities has cut water charges relating to school playgrounds
United Utilities has cut water charges relating to school playgrounds
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A major savings boost will be flowing the way of Fylde coast schools after water company bosses agreed to cut their bills.

Schools will see their waste water charges reduced by around 40 per cent next year by United Utilities.

It could mean a windfall of around £1m for Lancashire schools, including those in Fylde and Wyre, while Blackpool schools will also see considerable savings.

The fees are calculated using the size of school grounds, including playgrounds, and the water company has now accepted this is unfair.

A letter sent out to councils by United Utilities’ chief executive Steve Mogford said a “significant part” of current charges were due to “playground surfaces.”

And as such facilities are “an essential part of the fabric of both school infrastructure and the pupil experience” a change was needed as “schools are likely to find it impractical to disconnect playgrounds from the drainage system.”

School leaders and local authority chiefs have welcomed the move that comes after a significant lobbying effort from organisations including the Lancashire Schools Forum.

County Councillor Susie Charles, cabinet member for children, young people and schools at Lancashire County Council, said: “This is really good news as it will make a difference to school budgets.”

Stephen Tierney, chief executive of the Blessed Edward Bamber Catholic Multi Academy Trust which includes St Mary’s, St Cuthbert’s and Christ the King Catholic Academies in Blackpool, welcomed the move but said it was too early to say how much money would be saved.

He added: “A cut in charges from United Utilities means we can have more money to spend on pupils and that is something we are always grateful for.”

A spokesman for United Utilities said they had recognised drainage charges for schools were particularly high.

He added: “This is not least because many have large non-porous playgrounds which have contributed towards a higher calculation for the site area based charge.

“In view of the clear benefits of playgrounds to children in education and, therefore, society more generally, we are making a reduction to schools’ drainage charges which recognises this.”

United Utilities had previously said the region’s higher population, higher rainfall and industrial legacy meant that wastewater services were more expensive than other areas of the country.

Bosses said the concession - brought in for 2018/19 - will apply for premises used “exclusively or nearly exclusively for delivering education” for key stages one to five, and, which has a playground.