90pc of homes will pay their water bills, insists firm
THE company charged with collecting water bills expects 90pc of domestic customers to pay up.
Irish Water, a division of Bord Gais, plans to write to 1.3 million households from next summer to ask for confirmation of their address so they can be billed for their water.
Charges are expected to be introduced from early 2014, and households that refuse to pay won't be cut off – but they are likely to have the unpaid bill registered as a charge against their property or experience a loss of water pressure, meaning that washing machines and dishwashers cannot be used.
Just 53pc of businesses currently pay their water charges, figures from the Local Government Management Agency show, despite fees being in place for more than a decade. Some 18 local authorities are owed €76.5m.
Irish Water said that utility companies had high collection rates, but that the public needed to be told why charging had to take place.
"There needs to be a proposition for charges, and we will tell people why there'll be a better system and there'll be investment," a spokesman said.
"Utilities are good at collecting money, and we (Bord Gais) would collect about 90pc. We would expect to achieve utility norms of 90pc, but we would be naive to expect that from day one."
It is not yet clear when homeowners can expect to receive their first bill.
The EU/IMF agreement says charging must begin from 2014 but the Government may decide to delay the inevitable until after the local elections that year.
This is because there are concerns that homeowners hit with a full year of property tax, coupled with water charges, will vote against the coalition government parties of Fine Gael and Labour in the elections.
The Department of the Environment said a decision on when charging will commence had not yet been made.
Irish Water plans an extensive public information campaign from January which will involve leaflets being sent to all homes in the State.
The leaflet, 'Transforming Water Services in Ireland, a guide to the establishment of Irish Water' will be sent to all homes.
Some 110 staff from local authorities, Bord Gais and outside experts are currently engaged in procuring meters and designing a billing system with some 450 to be employed by the summer.
The senior management team is expected to be in place by next April.
By March, local contractors and larger regional contractors will be in place, with the first meters to be installed from the summer.
By June, a call centre employing 100 people will be established, and Irish Water will begin setting up a database of customer addresses to allow billing to commence.