New water meter cost 'to be paid over years'
HOMEOWNERS may be able to spread the cost of paying for their water meters over a number of years, it emerged last night.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny confirmed homeowners will have to pay for the new meters, but the cost of installing them in over one million homes will be borne by a loan from the National Pensions Reserve Fund (NPRF).
Water charges are to be introduced within two years but Environment Minister Phil Hogan has said nobody will be charged until meters are installed.
The details come in the wake of the household charge fiasco, which has seen just 890,000 out of 1.72 million homes paying the €100 levy so far.
There were mixed messages on the water charges yesterday, with Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore initially saying no decisions had been taken, only for Mr Kenny to outline what the charges were hours later.
Mr Gilmore said "no decision has been made yet on how the water metering arrangement is to be done".
"There will be an arrangement whereby there will be an allowance, household allowance in respect of water and then there will be charging beyond that," he said on RTE radio. "But the amount and the charge for a meter and so on, that's something that has not been decided yet."
But, speaking later in Co Mayo, Mr Kenny said: "There will not be an installation charge for the householder because that cost will be covered as a loan from the National Pensions Reserve Fund to the department. There will be a cost for the meter itself."
Neither Mr Kenny nor a spokeswoman for Mr Hogan would comment on how much would have to be paid -- the spokeswoman described a suggested figure of at least €300 as "purely speculation".
Government sources also indicated that, when water charges are introduced, anyone who does not pay will have their supply cut off.
The Cabinet will this week discuss the creation of Irish Water which will eventually be in charge of water metering.
The Commission for Energy Regulation will set the cost, method and timescale for payments for charges.
Sources said the commission might decide to spread the meter cost over a number of years on water bills, similar to the 'line rental' system used by telephone companies.
Mr Hogan's spokeswoman said: "The cost of the meters and the delivery of the service will be passed on to the consumers.
"The regulator will be responsible for determining the cost, the free allowance, the approval of a capital investment programme and the framework for levying the charges. The department will be consulting with the regulator on these matters before the introduction of water charges."
She said there were detailed estimates on the cost of meters, but they would not release figures "in advance of a competitive procurement process".
Installing them would create 2,000 jobs.
Finance Minister Michael Noonan has told the Dail that €450m will be provided for the scheme.
Campaigners against household charges last night said they will encourage people to boycott the meter charges.