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Water firms seek separate environmental budgets

WATER COMPANIES last week said they wanted the government to take billions of pounds worth of environmental work out of their five year spending cycles.

Instead they want ministers to set up separate longer term environmental spending programmes.

Water companies are still waiting for the government to produce environmental guidance to help them draw up spending proposals for the next five years. These plans must be ready by next month.

Tensions are building in the water industry as the delayed guidance risks holding up the whole process which will determine investment levels for the next five years (NCE last week).

'The current system can't cope with incoming European Directives. They don't agree with the timescale of the review, ' said Pamela Taylor, chief executive of industry representative body Water UK.

'The government should tell the water industry what it should do in the long term, then it will at least know the steps when it gets onto the dance floor.'

Taylor was giving evidence to the House of Commons environmental audit committee last week. The committee is investigating the size and nature of the environmental programme for 2005-2010.

Government guidance on the programme was due to be given to industry regulator Ofwat in January, in time for water companies to finalise their business plans for 2005 to 2010.

According to Water UK the delay would not be an issue if the government was to set a separate long term environmental programme that could be checked within the five year review.

As NCE went to press water industry sources said they expected to receive environmental guidance from the Department of the Environment Food & Rural Affairs later this week.

It is understood that Welsh Water has already received its guidance from the Welsh Assembly.

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