Councillors fear residents without water meter face ‘financial disadvantage’

Islington Town Hall

Islington Town Hall - Credit: Ken Mears 

Councillors are seeking assurances from Thames Water that residents unable to have water meters fitted in their properties will not be financially “disadvantaged”.

The water firm's plan to start billing council and housing association tenants directly from April 1, rather than through landlords, has caused heated debate at the Town Hall.

At a meeting on March 23 the housing scrutiny committee discussed the changes.

Cllr Gary Heather pointed out that those unable to secure a water meter could be worse off.

According to Thames, it is not always possible to install meters at properties with complex plumbing. These are instead charged based on the average water use in similar properties.

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Cllr Heather said: “It’s alright them having a special tariff, but how would that compare if they could have a water meter? 

“People should not be disadvantaged because the technical solution from Thames Water is not possible. 

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“Let’s spell it out – they should not be disadvantaged by not being able to have a water meter fitted.”

The company offers a cheaper tariff for single occupant households, and promises that if a resident’s current rate is cheaper than the tariff following an assessment, they will stay on it.

This arrangement is available only to those who have applied for a meter but have been unable to have one fitted, “either because it’s not possible or it would be too complicated to fit”.

Council officers confirmed that low water users and single occupants are the ones “losing out”, and committee members pressed for an answer on how many households in Islington are unable to have water meters.

Cllr Phil Graham said: “You can’t solely base your water use on the amount of people in a building. One person can use more water than two. Seeing as we have not had water meters before, how can you work out whether they are high or low user?”

Councillors were told that while many can save money by having a meter, larger households or those with medical conditions who do a lot of laundry might be better off without one.

A spokesperson for Thames Water said the company has been walking closely with the council.

"We have a range of alternative tariffs and financial support options for customers to make sure no one is disadvantaged and we’re talking with local residents’ groups to discuss any concerns they have," they said.

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