Scramble to stop bin charges becoming the 'new Irish Water'
Published 17/06/2016 | 02:30
Bin charges are on course to become a new 'Irish Water' -style fiasco as the Government desperately scrambles for a way to cap charges.
Housing Minister Simon Coveney is expected to examine the possibility of introducing regulations to ensure people end up paying no more than they have to date.
This will require discussions with the Attorney General.
The minister is also expected to investigate waivers for families in extenuating circumstances.
Opposition parties and backbench TDs were last night insisting that the new 'pay by weight' regime for rubbish be postponed beyond July 1 amid allegations of "price gouging".
The debacle has resulted in Housing Minister Simon Coveney "calling in" waste companies for a crisis meeting today .
"My job in the next few days is to ensure that the significant concern, and stress, and heat that has been created around this issue can be dealt with by Government and by me," he said. "We'll work through the weekend to come up with a sensible proposal."
However, Fianna Fáil's Public Expenditure spokesman Dara Calleary told the Irish Independent the debacle "shows all the hallmarks of being this Government's Irish Water".
"There is very little they can do except suspend its introduction until they can figure out what is going on.
"Bringing them in is a bit like when Enda Kenny brought in all the insurance companies and Michael Noonan brought in the banks over the variable-rate mortgages - it didn't achieve anything," he said.
Such is the concern within Fine Gael that Mr Coveney was personally briefing backbench TDs last night about the developments.
One of those who raised the issue at a meeting of the party on Wednesday, Noel Rock, said: "It's another Irish Water in the making unless we check it. Everybody is talking about the scale of the increase.
"It's crazy. It's the single biggest issue that has come up with me since the election."
He described the Department of Environment's claim that 87pc of households will pay less under the new regime as "nonsense".
Much of the blame in the Dáil yesterday was pointed at former environment minister Alan Kelly, who signed a Statutory Instrument last January to introduce the new system.
However, in a statement Mr Kelly said he "made it perfectly clear to the waste companies at the time" that if they exploited the situation by charging householders more than they were already paying, then the terms and conditions of the Statutory Instrument would be "revisited and revised to force their hands".
"As far as I was concerned, this was always the sword of Damacles to be held over their heads, that would incentivise them to grow up as an industry. Unfortunately, as we have seen in recent weeks, they have failed to do so," he said.
Sinn Féin has threatened to put forward a Seanad motion to annul the Statutory Instrument next week and the Anti-Austerity Alliance/People Before Profit are planning protests outside the Dáil.
Mr Coveney insisted that the 'pay by weight' was supported by "every environmentalist in the country".
"My approach is about trying to ensure that we have a new system of paying for waste that actually benefits the householder in terms of rewarding good practice around conservation and the management of waste.
"And also to ensure that we don't allow any company to use that change in the system, or the confusion that may come with that change, to increase their margins or unfairly increase their charges."