Businesses that don’t pay water arrears face being cut off

BUSINESSES that are in significant arrears on commercial water charges could see their taps turned off by Kilkenny County Council if they don’t pay up.

BUSINESSES that are in significant arrears on commercial water charges could see their taps turned off by Kilkenny County Council if they don’t pay up.

In a small number of cases, including some “fairly high-profile customers”, the council is issuing official notification that the arrears must be paid within 14 days. “If they are not prepared to pay, we will disconnect their water supply,” said John Dempsey, the council’s Head of Finance.

Part of the problem dates back to the introduction of water charges based on metered usage at the start of 2009, when several businesses discovered leaks “on their side of the metres” that had been previously undetected.

This led to higher charges than they had expected, but the council gave them leeway in repairing the leaks, Mr Dempsey said. “We weren’t going to come in heavy on them. We gave them a chance to sort out their problems.”

It became “a non-issue for quite a few people” as they addressed the problems and paid what was owed, Mr Dempsey said, but now the council’s draft annual financial statement for 2010 shows that 2.2 million euro of the 5.2 million euro due in water rates remains to be collected.

“We have been dealing with the legacy from the point of gradually reducing arrears, but it has taken awhile to do that,” Mr Dempsey said at Monday’s council meeting.

“We are now moving to be a lot more direct on payment, and during 2011 you will see a big improvement on that percentage (of owed water charges collected).”

The council is also having to work with businesses that are struggling to pay their commercial rates, as there are “quite a high number of premises experiencing trouble”, Mr Dempsey told members. “It’s a day-to-day slog working with businesses to come to suitable arrangements,” he added, although he said that with 87% of rates collected in 2010 “we have the best collection percentage in the country”.