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London Assembly call for water meters adds fear of East End poverty getting worse

PUBLISHED: 12:00 01 October 2012

Water meters could be installed in every home within the next 13 years, the London Assembly is urging.

Paying for mains water each time families turn the tap on is one of the solutions a report by the Assembly’s Health & Environment committee suggests to avoid future drought restrictions.

But the suggestion is ringing alarm bells that pensioners and families on the poverty line in London’s deprived East End could be badly hit.

Tower Hamlets council’s Labour group is worried that many vulnerable people might have to ration their daily water to make ends meet.

“There are real concerns about compulsory meters in everyone’s home,” Labour group leader Joshua Peck told the Advertiser.

“Many large families who face rising costs would impose self-rationing—that would deprive children in an area which already has London’s biggest child poverty numbers.

“The cost of living has put energy prices up, so many families can’t afford water bills wacked up as well.”

Water companies are being urged to step up installing meters in all properties by 2025—currently only one-in-four households have meters.

Yet a quarter of all drinking water is lost through mains leakages which is the responsibility of the companies, the London Assembly’s report points out.

But Tower Hamlets councillors say compulsory meters are not the answer—even with ‘social tariffs’ for those on benefits or low income.

“People have to ration their heating, even with low tariffs,” added Cllr Peck.

“Every year pensioners die in winter because they don’t heat their homes—they can’t afford to keep warm even with lower bills.

“You cannot have problem like that and introduce compulsory water meters which would compound the cost of living for many vulnerable people.”

As many as four out of 10 youngsters are in child poverty in the East End.

Ofwat, the water industry regulator, is being urged by the London Assembly to include long-term economic, social and environmental costs of mains supplies and bring in social tariffs for vulnerable families.

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