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Water bills to go ahead without meters

METERS will not be installed in every home in the country when water charges are introduced in 2014, the Government admitted last night.

This means that some families will be forced to pay for water based on the average use of their neighbours, with no reward for cutting consumption.

Work on installing meters in 1.5 million properties will begin later this year, but it will take up to three years to install meters in every home in the country.

Homes with meters will be billed on the amount of water they use, while those without will be forced to pay a charge based on the average use of people in similarly-sized properties.

A spokeswoman for Environment Minister Phil Hogan last night admitted that some homes could not be charged on usage, because it would not be possible to have every property metered by 2014 when the charges come into force.

The Department of the Environment will seek companies to begin work installing meters over the coming weeks, and the country will be divided into some 200 areas, with a separate metering contract for each.

This is designed to help create employment locally, and the Government has promised that up to 2,000 construction jobs will be created over three years.

The State plans to spend €370m on water services this year, with some of the money going towards the cost of installing the meters. The bill has been estimated at up to €500m, but not until contractors are appointed will the final cost be known.

A six-week public consultation on reform of water services opens today, and members of the public are invited to make proposals on how a new utility company to be called 'Irish Water' should operate.

It will be responsible for setting prices and collecting charges, and will be established within a year. A new agency may be set up, or an existing company such as Bord na Mona or the National Roads Authority could take responsibility.

Last night Mr Hogan said that once the metering programme was completed, up to €600m a year would be invested in water services.

"The water reform programme will form a key element of our job creation strategy.

"The water metering programme will result in 2,000 much-needed good-quality jobs for the construction sector," Mr Hogan said.

Irish Independent