Belfast Telegraph

Clash over water meter installation

Continued installation of water meters in new homes across Northern Ireland is irrational given water charges are never likely to be introduced, Conor Murphy has said.

The Regional Development minister told MLAs that the legal requirement, introduced under direct rule, did not fit with the executive's stance not to bill homeowners for the volume of water they consume.

All new homes currently must have a meter installed. Government-owned service delivery company Northern Ireland Water (NIW) meets the £32.53 (previously £42) cost of the product and fitting them.

Mr Murphy said while the meters were measuring the water consumed, NIW was not reading them as there was no separate charge to levy.

The executive has twice deferred introducing the controversial charges set down by direct rule ministers to pay for NIW, a move that costs £200 million a year.

Last week Mr Murphy said he believed fellow ministers would soon take a definitive decision to axe the funding model permanently and commit to source the money from elsewhere in the budget from now on.

During Assembly questions today the SDLP's Dominic Bradley asked the minister why meters were still being installed.

Mr Murphy said there was clear tension between the direct rule measures and what the executive had decided.

"This is another example of this tension," he said.

The minister added: "The meters are not currently read by NIW but continue to record the consumption for individual properties."

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