Minister's apology over water meter confusion

 

A SENIOR Government Minister has apologised for Government confusion over how many households in the State may face flat bills for water usage when the new charging regime is introduced in 2014.

Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar accepted the basis of a report in The Irish Times that older houses with shared supply pipes, or mains coming in the back gardens, would have to face a fixed charge.

However, he said it was his understanding that it would affect no more than 20 per cent of households and not the one-third of houses estimated for Dublin by the City Council’s executive manager Tom Leahy.

“There will be about 20 per cent of older houses and apartments that won’t be able to be metered in the normal way,” Mr Varadkar told RTÉ’s The Week in Politics last night.

“What they do in other countries is that they estimate the charges based on the size of the house and the number of people in it. But that is something that will have to be worked out at a later stage.”

Asked about the way in which the charge has been communicated by the Government, he said: “I do acknowledge that there has been confusion on this issue. I apologise for that.

“I know the people are struggling with bills at the moment and that the cost of living is increasing, and certainly nobody in the Government wants to scare people about charges.”

The Department of Environment has said that over one million homes would be metered by the end of 2014, with 300,000 being excluded, because they were apartments, or gated communities.

Fianna Fáil environment spokesman Niall Collins said the latest disclosures showed the “Government was making it up as it went along”.

“Such a major fundamental mistake shows that [Minister for the Environment] Phil Hogan has not thought it through.” Sinn Féin environment spokesman Brian Stanley said The Irish Times report had demolished the argument that water metering and water charges were about conservation.

Catholic property, including parochial houses and bishop’s palaces, are exempt from household charges as they have charitable status, the Irish Mail on Sunday reported yesterday. Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin said yesterday that he had instructed all parishes in the capital to pay the €100 charge.