Thursday 27 November 2014

Taxpayer pumps out €55,000 for a gym at Irish Water

Published 08/06/2014 | 02:30

People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett

MORE than €55,000 of taxpayers' money has been spent on a state-of-the-art gym for Irish Water staff, the Sunday Independent can reveal.

The massive spending was this weekend described as "scandalous" at a time when hard-pressed families are being forced to hand over hundreds of euro just to turn on the taps in their homes.

The Government will demand that households cough up a minimum of €240 annually when the controversial new water tax is introduced next year. The charge has caused widespread outrage among cash-strapped families and saw the Coalition parties take a hammering at the recent elections.

Now it has emerged staff working for the State company tasked with collecting the new tax have been treated to a fitness centre in their headquarters in Dublin City Centre.

Employees hoping to work out before they leave the office on Talbot Street will be charged a cut-price rate of just €20 to join the gym.

If staff joined Ben Dunne's gym on nearby Jervis Street they would be forced to pay €179 for a year's membership.

People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett described the spending by the agency responsible for collecting the controversial new water tax as "scandalous".

"It's a pity huge numbers of people, who will be forced to pay water charges they can't afford, won't be able to pay for fitness clubs but those who are taking the money off them will be using taxpayers' money to keep themselves fit," he said.

He added: "It's further evidence that Irish Water is just another quango that will suck money out of the public's pocket."

Irish Water spent more than €40,000 on hi-tech exercise equipment for the gym.

The spending includes €12,879 on two treadmills and €2,316 on an exercise bike, while weight machines set the taxpayer back €8,000.

Medicine balls and kettle bells are also available to staff who want to keep fit without leaving the office. The company spent €11,000 installing partitions and new floors in the premises to accommodate the fitness centre.

Irish Water said it covered €38,000 of the gym's costs and Bord Gais provided the rest of the funding. The newly established State utility company shares an office with the gas giant and both split the costs of fitting out the fitness centre.

The figures were released by Irish Water under the Freedom of Information Act.

The company spent almost €6,000 on entertainment for staff since August last year.

Irish Water employees enjoyed meals in the Clarion Hotel, Milanos and the Harbourmaster Bar in Dublin's financial services centre.

The largest amount of spending was on a dinner for 120 employees in Croke Park which cost €4,575.90 in August last year.

On the same day, a laughter yoga seminar was held for employees, which cost €250.

Irish Water was forced to defend sending employees on the motivational course when it first emerged in January.

The company employs 29 staff who earn more than €100,000 and also pays lucrative bonuses to around 100 employees.

Sunday Independent

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