Saturday 21 October 2017

Burton hoping to pay €100 water grant earlier and help families plan

Tánaiste Joan Burton said distributing the grant in the early part of the year would make it easier for households in terms of financial planning
Tánaiste Joan Burton said distributing the grant in the early part of the year would make it easier for households in terms of financial planning
Niall O'Connor

Niall O'Connor

The payment of the €100 Water Conservation Grant will be brought forward by a number of months as part of changes being considered by the Government.

Tánaiste Joan Burton said distributing the grant in the early part of the year would make it easier for households in terms of financial planning.

But Ms Burton repeatedly refused to commit on proposals to link the grant to the payment of bills despite pressure from Government backbenchers.

The Irish Independent reported last week that Fine Gael backbenchers have been coming under fire in their constituencies because the grant is due to be paid to all householders - regardless of whether they have paid their bills or not.

The issue sparked tensions within the Coalition after this newspaper revealed that the proposal had been tabled a number of months ago by Environment Minister Alan Kelly but was shot down by Finance Minister Michael Noonan.

Mr Noonan felt that linking the grant to bill payment could break State rules and could isolate 300,000 households on group water schemes or those who have grants and septic tanks.

But the prospect of linking the grant to the payment of bills now appears to be firmly off the table in the short term.

Speaking at an event in Dublin yesterday, the Labour Party leader said she believed the system in place would deliver "very affordable charges".

Bills

And she said she hoped changes would be introduced which would see the €100 grant, available to all householders who register, paid in the first half of the year. At present, the grant is paid in the autumn.

However, Ms Burton said she believed the payment date could be brought forward once a complete set of data was collated by Irish Water.

"Obviously, the first Irish Water bills went out a couple of months ago. The second billing cycle is under way at the moment and the conservation grant will be paid as we indicated on an annual basis. We are setting up that system now. We'll be paying it for this year in the last part of the year," Ms Burton said.

"As the billing system is established, we will in fact be paying it on behalf of the Department of the Environment, and I hope to be able in future years to pay it in the first half of the year so that people can manage their obligations in relation to water charges."

The Dublin West TD was also asked about the upcoming water protest on Saturday and the situation surrounding a number of individuals who are facing charges as a result of their role in the infamous Jobstown protest last November.

She said she had read in the media reports that some protesters intended to take legal action over the alleged leak of the planned arrests but that she was not in a position to comment further.

Anti-Austerity Alliance TD Paul Murphy has formally complained about the alleged leak to Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Garda watchdog.

Irish Independent

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