Kenny adds to confusion over water meters

Mon, Apr 16, 2012, 01:00

TAOISEACH ENDA Kenny has added to confusion over the cost of water meters, saying households would have to pay for meters but their installation would be free.

Mr Kenny’s comments contradict statements made yesterday by Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore and the Department of the Environment.

Speaking in Mayo yesterday, Mr Kenny said the cost of water meters had not yet been determined by the regulator, but there would be no charge to fit them.

“There will not be an installation charge for the householder because that cost will be covered as a loan from the National Pension Reserve Fund to the department. There will be a cost for the meter itself,” Mr Kenny told RTÉ news.

However, a spokesman for the Department of the Environment last night said both the cost of buying and installing water meters would be passed on to the households and not paid for by the exchequer.

“Similar to how other regulated utilities are funded globally, the cost of the meters and the delivery of service will be passed on to the consumers,” he said.

Speaking on RTÉ radio yesterday, Mr Gilmore articulated a third position. “No decision has yet been made on how water meters are to be paid for.”

He reiterated the point later in the interview. “No decision has been made yet on how the water metering arrangement is to be done . . . the amount and the charge for a water meter and so on, that is something that has not been decided yet.”

More than a million homes will have to have water metres installed by the end of next year if charges are to be introduced on schedule in 2014, as set out in the EU-ECB-IMF deal.

Although a figure of between €300 and €350 per household’s metre installation has been used by the department in the past, the spokesman said the €300 figure given in media reports yesterday was “purely speculation” and the cost would “vary depending on the location of the property”.

He said the Commission for Energy Regulation would be responsible for determining the cost, allowance, approval of a capital investment programme and framework for levying the charges. “The department has prepared detailed cost estimates on meters following extensive market soundings.” It would be “inappropriate” to release estimated figures before a “competitive procurement process”.

Campaigners against water charges warned of widespread chaos if householders are charged for the installation of water meters.

Socialist Party TD Joe Higgins predicted an even greater boycott of water charges than the almost 50 per cent non-payment of the household charge. He said widespread refusal to pay the cost of supplying and installing meters would cause “chaos” as some households would pay and have metres installed, while others would not.

He urged householders to refuse to pay. “The Government, the troika and EU bureaucrats want a second tier of taxes . . . This will be resisted in every possible way.”

The Cabinet is due to discuss the establishment of a private company, Irish Water, tomorrow to oversee the installation of meters and charges.

Ruth Coppinger of the Campaign Against Household and Water Charges, said Government arguments that water meters would encourage people to conserve water were spurious.

While charges encouraged conservation in the short term “in the medium to long term people go back to using as much as before. Meters are like speed cameras, people forget about them and go back to their bad habits”.

She said of greater benefit would be an investment in the repair and replacement of leaking pipes, through which up to 50 percent of water was lost. “That would put thousands of plumbers and engineers back to work.”