Gormley welcomes Siemens water meter talks

FINANCE Minister Brian Lenihan should meet with energy company Siemens to discuss its offer to lend the state money to install domestic water meters, the Environment Minister has said.

In Limerick to officially open the refurbished Milk Market, John Gormley said it was “always very helpful” to receive “constructive ideas” from private companies.

“Certainly, we want to roll out water meters. People who have the expertise are always very welcome and they have sought a meeting with Mr Lenihan and that should go ahead,” the Green Party leader told reporters yesterday.

However Prof Richard Tol of the Economic Social and Research Institute (ESRI) said there should be a tendering process to avoid one company having a monopoly.

Prof Tol has also said that if water charges are introduced, it should not be on the basis of a “flat rate” where every household pays the same, because flat charges do not encourage water conservation. Instead, charges should be based on usage, he said.

Siemens is offering to lend the state the money needed to install up to 1.1 million domestic water meters, with the costs of the move being paid back through savings in the Government’s multi-billion euro water services programme.

Siemens has sought a meeting with Mr Lenihan to discuss how the offer might help achieve targets for the installation of water meters announced by Mr Gormley last January. At the time, Mr Gormley said the state had “a problem” with the cost of the Water Services Investment Programme which from 2010 to 2012 would cost at least €1.8 billion.

Mr Gormley also told protestors in Limerick that no Cabinet decision had been made on proposals to merge Limerick City and County councils into a single authority and extend the city boundary into the suburbs administered by Clare County Council. He said: “It is important we have a constructive debate, but... everybody should realise we want to do the very best for this city.”

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