Saturday 20 December 2014

Voters not lied to over water bills, Bruton insists

Fionnan Sheahan Group Political Editor

Published 02/08/2014 | 02:30

When asked if the public had been lied to, Mr Bruton said: “Absolutely not.”
When asked if the public had been lied to, Mr Bruton said: “Absolutely not.”

JOBS Minister Richard Bruton has rejected claims voters were lied to about the cost of water charges before the local and European elections.

Mr Bruton (pictured) defended the Government after the promised average household charge of €238 turned out to be €278 for a home with just two adults or a family of four with two children under 18; and €483 for a family of four with two grown-up children.

When asked if the public had been lied to, Mr Bruton said: "Absolutely not."

After the full cost of water charges, another 400 households were warned against drinking their water.

Irish Water advised people living in Ballynanty in Limerick city not to drink the water, use it to prepare food or diluted drink, including baby formula or ice cubes because of high levels of lead.

Water restrictions will also remain in place over the weekend for 1,500 people living in Kildysart, Co Clare.

Under the charging system, a family with two children over 18 will be hit with water bills of almost €500 a year, despite government promises to keep the 'average' charge per household at €238.

A household with just two adults and no children will also pay €278 – €40 above what the Government promised families they would pay in advance of last May's local and European elections.

The Government's claim that children won't pay came under fire after the water regulator approved a sharp reduction in the free allowance proposed for children.

Dramatic

According to the official estimates, a family with two adults and two children under 18 will also pay €278. But the Government had said that up to 38,000 litres a year would be allocated, which has been reduced to just 21,000 litres.

It means parents will only be given enough free water for their children to take one shower and flush the toilet once each day. Everything else will have to be paid for.

The dramatic reduction came about because Irish Water claimed children used less water than previously thought and the regulator agreed. Mr Bruton said the charging system was very clear.

"Children will go free. Older people will have a €100 household charge, free charge, like free electricity. This system will be fair to all. Obviously, any system where you have high usage, you are going to pay more, but this allows people, obviously, to economise on their usage. It's designed in that way," he said.

"Over time we will provide a system that is fit for the 21st Century. At the moment, you can go out to any part of the city and the supply is on a knife-edge, some parts of our country have boil notices where the water is inferior," he added.

Mr Bruton said the only way to get investment was by bringing in charges.

"I am very pleased we now have a structure that will be seen to be fair. So we have delivered, I think, as fair as possible a structural charge as we could."

Labour Party minister and Junior Jobs Minister Ged Nash insisted the average charge would be €238 and said it was important for Irish Water to remain in public ownership.

He also stood over the government decision to not allow standing charges be introduced as part of the billing system.

Irish Independent

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