SRC wins battle against Scottish Water

Louise Wilson

Glasgow University Students’ Representative Council (GUSRC) last month confirmed that students moving into Halls will not be subject to additional charges, following attempts by Scottish Water to apply direct charges to purpose-built student accommodation.

Scottish Water had announced that, as of 1st April 2013, purpose-built student housing would be charged for water and wastewater. Although these additional costs would not affect students directly, the University had advised that rent would have to be increased to cover the extra charges.

The SRC raised concerns with Scottish Water and MSPs that this would put freshers off renting in Halls of Residence, which for many creates social bonds and provides pastoral care to make the transition of moving away from home for the first time easier.

These charges are normally covered by Council Tax, from which all full-time students are exempt and from which Halls have previously been exempt. Instead, Scottish Water wished to categorise Halls of Residence as a business, thus allowing them to charge via the commercial market.

Murano Street and Cairncross had been viewed as commercial and billed by Business Stream, a subsidiary company of Scottish Water.

A letter received by the SRC from the Scottish Parliament confirmed that Halls will not be viewed commercially, as long as they are entirely occupied by full-time students. The letter stated that any bills issued after 1st April will not be pursued and “no further new bills will be issued and nor will any new rebates be applied”.

The announcement kicks the year off to a good start for the SRC. President Jess McGrellis was delighted with the government response to their concerns. She said:

“We are thrilled with the outcome of this campaign. We have been working hard behind the scenes and lobbying the Scottish Government since we first heard of these appalling proposals to penalise some students by charging them for water just because they chose to live in a safe, supportive environment such as that provided by University Halls.

“Many first year students choose to live in Halls of Residence because of the opportunities to settle far from home and make new friends. It appears that Scottish Water thought these students were an easy target for an additional revenue source. We are happy that the Scottish Government has accepted our arguments and students’ right to remain exempt from these charges.”