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Saturday 23 August 2014

Irish Water boss says flow will be "down to a trickle" if charges not paid

Published 10/01/2014 | 07:22

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Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore
Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore

Managing Director of Irish Water John Tierney has said that household water flow will be restricted "down to a trickle" if consumers refuse to pay the imposed charges.

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"Only the very basic amount for human consumption will be allowed into homes that don't pay the water bill," Mr Tierney told Newstalk this morning.

"In the contract, we can restrict the flow or recover as a simple contract debt. The experience brought by a utility to this work is hugely important because the track record in terms of collecting monies in utilities is good."

His comments follow the recent revelation that Irish Water has spent over €50m on consultants while setting up the company.

Irish Water has come under fire from Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore over the €50m big spend, a move which has been defended by Mr Tierney as "value for money" and necessary for initial setup.

"In terms of the enduring Irish Water business, we have absolutely cut consultant expenditure to the minimum. This spend on consultancy is part of the setup costs," he said.

Former auditors of Anglo Irish Bank and Ernst & Young were some of the companies to enjoy this €50m big spend.

Irish Water was established to manage Ireland's water infrastructure and administer the new water charges.

"We have been tasked with the most ambitious metering program, certainly anywhere in the UK," said the Irish Water boss.

"We’ve been tasked with trying to 27,000 meters a month in order to complete the project by the end of 2016 and it is our clear intention to meet that targets that were set for us."

But fears are growing about significant delays in the roll-out of water meters because of a backlash from county councillors.

Irish consumers will be first liable for charges in the last quarter of this year, with billing in force by the first quarter of next year.

Many properties will still be without a water meter at that stage so consumers will be subject to two billing regimes.

There will be many different elements if a household is on the assessment (non-metered) charge such dependent on house type, number of people in the house and how many rooms are in the house in order to “introduce a fairness element”.

“On the metered side, there would be a standard charge and then an additional volumetric charge,” said Mr Tierney.  

However, it has also emerged that Irish Water may be allowed to increase its charge per unit for water if demand is not as high as expected.

Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore said Irish Water must justify its expenditure on consultants.

While Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin branded the latest revelations a “scandal waiting to evolve".

People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett told RTE's Morning Ireland "We are going to be charged for our resources through the nose and we're going to be lining the pockets of the golden circle yet again."

"I would describe it as a mafia-style heist of one of our most vital resources."

He said: "Why isn't the money [spent on consultants] being used to employ people to fix the pipes?"

"It is a complete myth to say we don't pay for water. That is what taxes are for."

He added that he believes people would be "morally justified" to boycott the water charges.

Meanwhile, Shane Ross TD told RTE’s Today with Sean O’Rourke that the revelations about the consultants bill are tough for taxpayers to take.

“It’s pretty shattering. People are very sore when they hear this sort of enormous figure emerging.”

“This is a super quango behaving as quangos do.”

“It’s pretty tough for people who’ve been hit by Property tax and VHI and older people recently to hear that they’re now going to be paying water tax, to hear that they’re going to be paying now water tax which is going to go into the hands of already rich consultants.”

Mr Ross is a member of the Dail’s Public Accounts Committee and he said it is vital that Irish Water explains its consultants bill before the committee.

“It is opaque, we don’t know the details and we need to know the details of what they’re spending this money on.”

“We just haven’t had an explanation, and these guys at Irish Water are not subject to Freedom of Information.”

“The impression I get is that these guys get given a blank cheque for smart premises in good places, and that they’re not subject to the sort of scrutiny that they should be.”

Mr Ross criticised the hiring of Ernst & Young as consultants by Irish Water.

“Ernst & Young were the people who didn’t manage to spot all of the problems in Anglo Irish Bank which has cost the State so much now they’re being rehired and being paid vast sums to look after a quango.”

Ernst & Young has previously stated that it stands by the quality of the work it performed on behalf of Anglo.

Meanwhile, Mr Ross said: “I don’t believe that this sort of spending should go unchecked, unexplained to the people who are paying for it, and every single piece of it needs to come out – either under Freedom of Information or before the Public Accounts Committee.”

“It’s completely and utterly unacceptable. It puts the whole resentment against water charges right back on the agenda. And it makes those people who are paying so much money already which they can’t afford deeply, deeply hurt that the money is apparently being squandered in this way.”

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