Monday 24 November 2014

Water meters: Government considers major ramp up

Anne-Marie Walsh and Paul Melia

Published 28/04/2014 | 11:38

Minister for Environment Phil Hogan. Photo: Tony Gavin
Minister for Environment Phil Hogan. Photo: Tony Gavin

THE Government is considering a massive ramp-up in the water metering programme to avoid overcharging.

Environment Minister Phil Hogan has confirmed he will be bringing revised proposals on the charges to cabinet for a decision on Wednesday.

Currently, some 27,000 meters a month are being installed but not until the end of 2016 will householders be able to reduce usage and lower their bills.

This means that the vast bulk of the 1.35 million homes being hit with charges from next October will be billed on the basis of the average water consumption, called an assessed charge.

Among the options being explored include accelerating the metering programme, resulting in more meters being installed in homes which will result in people being able to lower their bills by reducing usage.

This brings an element of fairness to the charge, which has become a key local election issue.

Speaking at a conference on local government organised by trade union Impact, Mr Hogan said he is also putting forward revised proposals on rebates which will mean families which pay too much on their assessed bill will receive a refund if consumption is lower than billed.

A submission is also being prepared for the regulator on a proposed standing charge – payable regardless of use – the free allowance of water per person and issues around affordability for those with medical conditions and on low incomes.

He denied there were tensions between Labour and Fine Gael on the issue, but admitted there were mixed views.

“There is not really a tension but differences of view as to what constitutes a fair and balanced package,” he said.

“I’ve listened carefully to what my colleagues around the table have said and I’m going to revise some proposals in relation to how we can clarify issues in relation to metering and how we can accelerate the metering programme if possible.”

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