Most houses will not have meters before water charges, says Gilmore

Gilmore says ‘ability to pay’ must be a factor

Workers install water meters outside houses in Fortlawn Estate near Blanchardstown, west Dublin, earlier this year. Picture Colin Keegan/ Collins Dublin. Workers install water meters outside houses in Fortlawn Estate near Blanchardstown, west Dublin, earlier this year. Picture Colin Keegan/ Collins Dublin.

Workers install water meters outside houses in Fortlawn Estate near Blanchardstown, west Dublin, earlier this year. Picture Colin Keegan/ Collins Dublin. Workers install water meters outside houses in Fortlawn Estate near Blanchardstown, west Dublin, earlier this year. Picture Colin Keegan/ Collins Dublin.

Thu, Apr 17, 2014, 16:04

Three out of four households will not be metered when water is charged for next October, Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore has said.

“We need to have a fair way of dealing with that situation,’’ he said. “I do not think it is acceptable that you can have a charge just based on some kind of crude decision based on the type of house concerned.’’

There has been confusion about exactly how much householders will be expected to pay for water, when charges are introduced. It is expected an average annual charge of about €240 per family will apply; an annual standing charge of €50 or less will be charged; and the free allowance will be 30,000 litres per adult and 65,000 litres per child a year.

Mr Gilmore, who was replying to questions in the Dáil today, said water usage and family size and their needs would also have to be looked at.

Another issue, he added, was the ability to pay the charge. He said no decision had been made on the estimated average annual charge of €240, recommended by the Central Statistics Office. While the figure was less than the one talked about, and the Fianna Fáil figure of €400, it was still very large for a family with difficulty paying it. “The issue of ability to pay is going to have to be addressed,’’ Mr Gilmore added.

He said all the issues involved would be considered by the Government before “a complete and comprehensive’’ decision was made on the charges regime. Various directions would then be given to the energy regulator which would inform the consultative process.

The Tanaiste rejected sharp criticism of the Government’s performance on the issue from Willie O’Dea, FF, Caoimhghin O Caolain, SF, and Independent Joan Collins, on behalf of the technical group.

Ms Collins said she was confused about what the row on the issue within the Government was about, given that there was agreement on the introduction of the “new austerity tax’’.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Mr Gilmore personally clashed at yesterday’s Cabinet meeting on efforts to secure agreement on water charges. Labour sources claimed Fine Gael attempted to “bounce” the junior Coalition partner into a decision on the charges. This was denied by those in Fine Gael, who said Mr Kenny felt people needed to know exactly how much they would be expected to pay.

“It was made clear to us that the Taoiseach wanted a decision on it, but nothing had been agreed,” a senior Labour source said.

The two leaders clashed at the Cabinet meeting yesterday, which sources described as “unusual”. Labour is said to be angry that Mr Kenny tried to push through an announcement on water charges while negotiations were continuing.

Homes without meters will be able to claim a rebate when the meter is installed if their bills are below the assessed charges initially applied. The rebate will be available for a limited period, understood to be two to three months.