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Half of city firms not billed for water levy

HALF of Dublin businesses are escaping water charges, the Herald can reveal.

It has emerged today that the council is losing out on millions of euro each year by failing to invoice half of the firms in the capital.

Figures seen by the Herald reveal that an average of just over 50pc of properties were billed since 2008 -- meaning a total loss of more than €83m.

The news will prove particularly frustrating for businesses who are year on year being invoiced by the council to pay the charge.

Water in the city is supplied free of charge to householders, but non-domestic customers such as shops, pubs and other businesses are obliged to cough up.

Bills are based on a water meter which is fitted to measure consumption levels.

The current rate is €1.90 for every 1,000 litres used.

The council indicated that the shortfall was due to the closure of premises, adding that the city's water metering project only got underway in 2008.

However, Fine Gael councillor Paddy McCartan, who obtained the figures, told the Herald that the level of collection is "pathetic".

"The fact that over four years, the average figure for non-collection was 50pc, is absolutely pathetic. The compliant are paying for the non-compliant here and it has to stop," he said.

"As a local authority we should be looking to achieve an 80pc compliance rate here. It's not on that struggling businesses are paying and others are simply not," he added.

In response to a question by Cllr McCartan, city council executive manager Rose Kenny said 13,500 properties are billed each year: "The water metering project was underway in 2008 and completed in 2009. There were significant changes to billing in particular to the number of accounts in the transition from fixed to metered.

"However, the number of properties billed for non-domestic water each year is 13,500 with variations due to premises closing and new builds being set up with meters etc."