Plans to raise sewage charges by 15 per cent next month were blocked by legislators yesterday. Lawmakers from all sides gave unanimous support to the two private member's resolutions from Democrat Dr John Tse Wing-ling freezing the sewage charges and trade effluent surcharges. The Government has proposed further increases over the next three years totalling 168 per cent. The dollar amount translates from $1.20 per cubic metre now to $3.22 planned for April 1999. Secretary for Treasury Kwong Ki-chi said the freeze meant the Government's Sewage Service Trading Fund would face a deficit by the end of this year. 'If the trading fund failed to strike a balance within a reasonable time, it would breach the stipulations under the Trading Fund Ordinance. We have to review the sewage services as a whole, including whether the operation as a trading fund can be continued,' he warned. Legislators stressed it was not appropriate to increase charges in light of the weak economy and high unemployment rate, even though they supported the Government's polluter-pays principle. They said restaurateurs and the textile industry faced undue difficulties under the increase, which would result in more redundancies. Dr Tse accused the Government of breaking a promise made when the sewage charges scheme was introduced last year. 'The Government said at that time the public would only have to pay a minimal amount on sewage charges,' he said. 'It lured us into accepting the scheme with the price of a slice of bread, but now it seems like we have to buy a cake.' The Government now has to inject cash into the trading fund, with the Liberal Party's Henry Tang Ying-yen suggesting the administration use revenue from rates in subsidising sewage services. Kwong Hon-sang, the Secretary of Works, stressed the proposed increase was minimal and the public would not suffer greatly. He said 61 per cent of households would only pay $1 to $2.50 more a month under the increase, while 75 per cent of restaurants would only have to pay an extra $300 a month.