Council last night passed the first part of the city's 2007 budget, approving five and eleven per cent rate increases for sewer and water charges respectively, adding an extra $48 to the cost of living to the average London homeowner. Two points of the eleven per cent hike for sewer bills will be set aside to build a future pollution control plant in the south of the city, a controversial measure according to environmentalists who fear that an additional plant will enable further growth. Sewer and water charges in London increased over 50 per cent between 2000 and 2005, and the new hikes come on top of further 9.6 and 5 per cent increases respectively last year as well. Whether service levies are seen as a proxy for taxation or not, the precipitous climb in rates over the past seven years indicates that alternative methods of delivery through privatization should be explored to reduce the financial burdens on Londoners. At the least, independent examination of the service budgets should be undertaken to find inefficiencies and to lower costs to the city.