Politics

Friday 1 August 2014

Outcry as Irish Water keeps public in dark about charges

Daniel McConnell

Published 02/07/2014|02:30

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Fianna Fail Environment Spokesperson Barry Cowen
Fianna Fail Environment Spokesperson Barry Cowen

IRISH Water is to blame for delays in the public finding out how much they will pay in water charges, an Oireachtas committee has heard.

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The new quanqo has been severely criticised for "showing contempt" for the Oireachtas Environment Committee after it failed to provide details on water charges yesterday as expected.

Angry committee members vented their fury after they were denied key information about how much people will be charged for water.

At the hearing, the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) said that it had not received the required documentation from Irish Water in time for the meeting, despite having written to them requesting the information.

Acting committee chairman, Fianna Fail's Barry Cowen, expressed his anger and disappointment at what he called the latest broken commitment given by the super-quango.

He said at the committee: "I wish to place on record our disappointment that the final submission on charges from Irish Water has not been received. We would have hoped to have been privy to it, and had hoped to ask questions on it." At the conclusion of the meeting, Mr Cowen described the meeting as a "fiasco" and accused Irish Water of "duping" the regulator. Mr Cowen said this was the second time a commitment had been given by Irish Water, and broken.

Policy

"I don't want to mince my words, we are disappointment some are angered. We are at a loss today. That has been delayed further, this is the latest in a series of delays," he said.

Committee member and Labour TD Kevin Humphries said Irish Water was "showing contempt" toward the committee, saying the meeting was a "waste of time" without the charges documentation from Irish Water.

Regulator Paul McGowan said he shared the committee's disappointment with Irish Water's failure to provide the details of tariffs.

In response, Irish Water said it intends lodging its submission later this week. A spokeswoman said the company had no response to the stinging criticisms voiced by the committee.

The committee heard that, because of government policy, the average bill for households will be €240 a year until the end of 2016. The CER said that as this was the average, some homes will pay more and some less.

Proposed free water allowances for children will only come into effect if Irish Water can justify it, the Oireachtas Environment Committee has been told. The committee was also told that those people without meters who use less water than what they pay under an assessed charge will be entitled to a rebate.

The CER also said that customers who had meters installed prior to October 1 of this year would have their usage capped at the level of the assessed charge for a period of six months, or until they have their pipes repaired under the Government's first fix programme.

Bills will reflect separate line items for water and wastewater, which will be calculated on a 50/50 basis.

Irish Independent

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