Irish Times – Prospect of €780 water meter fee

Posted by | April 17, 2012 | Blog, News | No Comments

HARRY McGEE, Political Correspondent, Irish Times.

Households will pay an average of €39 per annum over 20 years to cover the cost of the loan from the National Pension Reserve Fund to install water meters in one million Irish homes.

Government sources confirmed yesterday the cost per household, based on the size of the NPRF loan, would work out at about €780, but that the cost would be levied as a standing charge over a period of two decades, in much the same way as such charges are already imposed by other utilities such as the ESB and Bord Gáis.

However, it was stressed that the ultimate decision on the size of the annual standing charge would be a decision for the Commission for Energy Regulation, which will be dealing with the new water metering service.

It will not be in a position to make any deliberation until the new water company had begun its operations.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny confirmed yesterday that householders would pay for the cost of the meters but that the cost would not be an upfront one. Charges are to become operable in early 2014.

“Obviously when you provide water meters somebody has to pay for them. We’ve made absolutely no decision about this. Any charge will . . . be the absolute minimum because of the difficulties that are involved here,” Mr Kenny said.

The clarification came ahead of today’s Cabinet meeting, where Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan will bring a memo setting out an implementation plan for installing water meters nationwide in time for water charges to be introduced in early 2014.

He will also bring proposals to set up the new utility company, Irish Water, on a transitional basis. It will replace the functions currently performed by 34 local authorities.

Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore said today no decision had been made on water meter charges.

Speaking on his way into Government Buildings for a Cabinet meeting, Mr Gilmore said pricing arrangements and proposals for setting up a water company have yet to be discussed by the Government.

He said the Cabinet would discuss the establishment of the Irish Water Company.

In the previous 24 hours the Government had struggled to clear up confusion surrounding the pricing model. Mr Kenny had said that households would have to pay for meters but their installation would be free.

Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore said today no decision had been made on water meter charges.

Speaking on his way into Government Buildings for a Cabinet meeting, Mr Gilmore said pricing arrangements and proposals for setting up a water company have yet to be discussed by the Government.

He said the Cabinet would discuss the establishment of the Irish Water Company.

The Taoiseach said yesterday that as many as 2,000 jobs would be created through the installation of water meters in the State. He also set out what will be a key plank of the Government’s strategy in its efforts to persuade the public of the need for efficient water management systems by saying “water was one of the most precious commodities”.

Government sources said last night that, in general, no charge would be applied until water meters were installed. However, it is unlikely that all one million homes will have meters in place by the end of next year.

The sources said households that have no meters installed will pay an “assessed charge” based on the metered charges paid by comparable metered properties. This system will be applied to the approximately 350,000 households that will not be metered because it would be too costly or too logistically difficult.

Minister for Finance Michael Noonan said no formal decision had been taken yet over who would take over the running of the State’s water and that it would be “premature” to be speculating what costs would be involved for consumers.

“I see meters as the friend of the householder and friend of business, as they’ll prevent people from paying for water that’s wasted,” he said.

Fianna Fáil environment spokesman Niall Collins described the handling of water metering as the “latest fiasco” at the Department of the Environment.

“The lack of any clear answer from Ministers over the last 24 hours on the question of whether or not households will be asked to pay for a water meter proves one thing: this Government has no meaningful strategy on water reform.”

“Already we are seeing worrying similarities with the communications disaster that surrounded the household charge,” he said.

Sinn Féin’s Aengus Ó Snodaigh and Brian Stanley criticised the handling of the issue, as well as the potential costs for householders. The party is opposed to the charge.

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