Friday 22 September 2017

Where will Leo Varadkar find cash to refund water charges this year? - Fianna Fail asks

Leo Varadkar at the launch of his Policy Paper at the Smock Alley Theatre in Dublin. Photo: Damien Eagers
Leo Varadkar at the launch of his Policy Paper at the Smock Alley Theatre in Dublin. Photo: Damien Eagers

Cormac McQuinn and Kevin Doyle

FIANNA Fáil has cast doubt on Leo Varadkar's intention for water charge refunds to be issued this year, questioning where the cash would be found.

Mr Varadkar has said that water charges should be refunded to those who paid "as soon as possible" and said he wants to see it happen "this year".

His Fine Gael leadership rival Simon Coveney has already warned that this can only happen "if the money is there to pay for it".

Now Fianna Fáil has said that the funding isn't in place this year and suggested it's an issue that may take up to two years to resolve.

Fianna Fáil’s Dara Calleary Picture: Tom Burke
Fianna Fáil’s Dara Calleary Picture: Tom Burke

The party's public expenditure spokesman Dara Calleary was asked for Fianna Fáil's stance on the refunding of water charges taking place this year.

He said: "In terms of the 2017 fiscal envelope, it’s not in it.

"It’s something that would need to be budgeted over 2018/2019.

"If Minister Varadkar has identified savings within his budget that he feels that it can be funded then let him show us where those sayings are and we’ll consider it then," Mr Calleary added.

Read More: Revealed: Leo Varadkar's big ideas if he wins Fine Gael leadership and becomes Taoiseach

Meanwhile, Fianna Fáil's Finance spokesman offered Mr Varadkar a tongue-in-cheek welcome to his party's point of view on the government's Help-to-Buy scheme.

Mr Varadkar has pledged to abolish the scheme if it proves to be inflating house prices.

Launching his policies yesterday Mr Varadkar said: “It’s already agreed by Government that there will be a review of the first-time buyers’ scheme to see if it’s been inflationary, I want to bring forward that review.

“If that review finds it hasn’t been inflationary then it will continue. If the review finds – as some people believe – that it has driven up house prices for first-time buyers, I think it should be phased out."

Mr McGrath said his party has pointed out that the Help-to-Buy scheme had the potential to have an inflationary impact on house prices.

Fresh row over water charges (Stock picture)
Fresh row over water charges (Stock picture)

Read More: Leo Varadkar 'hopes it won't be awkward at Cabinet' during Fine Gael leadership race

He noted that an independent impact assessment by Indecon is underway.

"That’s expected by the end of August/early September.

"The outgoing minister for finance has committed that the government will share that with us and so it will have to be considered in the context of the Budget in October.

"I welcome Leo Varadkar to our point of view on the issue," Mr McGrath said.

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