Environment minister says final decision on water charge 'within days'

Thursday 24 April 2014 16.56
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Contractors attempting to install water meters in Cork had to stop work due to a protest
Contractors attempting to install water meters in Cork had to stop work due to a protest
The protest began yesterday when contractors arrived to install meters
The protest began yesterday when contractors arrived to install meters

Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan has said the Government is due to give its final decision in relation to water charges in the next ten days.

Mr Hogan called on people to co-operate as much as they can with the introduction of water meters.

Speaking in Dublin at the publication of the heads of the Climate Change Bill, he said there is certainly going to be a water charge and he said the fairest way to implement it was through the use of a meter.

The minister was asked about reports that Irish Water is to be given money to fund over 1,000 voluntary redundancies from local authority staff.

Mr Hogan said that the regulator would be looking at the establishment costs and the necessary numbers of people required to run an entity such as Irish Water.

He said the Government was responding to that by giving local authorities the opportunity to look at staffing levels.

He said local authorities had already reduced their numbers by 25% and if people wanted to take a voluntary retirement package, or move out of the entity, they could do so.

Mr Hogan's comments came in response to questions about a protest against the installation of water meters in Cork.

A stand-off is continuing for a second day at a housing estate in Cork City where a small group of anti-water charge protesters are preventing contractors from installing water meters.

The protest began yesterday when contractors working for Irish Water arrived at the Ashbrook Heights estate in Togher to install water meters.

Residents were joined by members of the Ballyphehane and South Parish anti-water and property tax group and blocked the contractors from installing the meters.

Gardaí were present at the Ashbrook Heights estate again today.

It is understood that the protesters have been warned that they face arrest if they continue to block the contractors from undertaking their work.

In a statement, Irish Water said contractors at the site halted metering work for a time yesterday in order to maintain the safety of the staff, the public and the site of work.

Irish Water said it respects the right to protest and endeavours to facilitate this right in so far as is reasonably possible.

The company said domestic water charges will apply from 1 October 2014, with the first bills being issued in January 2015. 

The company said customers with a meter will be charged on the basis of use, while customers without a meter will receive an assessed bill based on a close approximation of water usage.

One of the protesters, John Lonergan, said he is one of a group of up to 20 people trying to prevent water meters being installed.

Speaking on RTÉ's Today with Sean O'Rourke, Mr Lonergan, who is from a neighbouring area, said the group is non-political but they are doing what they can to stop the imposition of water meters.

"We're standing at the entrance to the road, stopping them from installing meters in support of residents here.

"We're just an ordinary bunch of people who are sick to death of what this Government is trying to impose on people," he said.