Tuesday 27 September 2016

Government needs to bite the bullet and make changes

Published 01/08/2015 | 02:30

Environment Minister
Alan Kelly
Environment Minister Alan Kelly

The Government is running out of options to solve this water crisis of its own making. It has committed to both keeping the current charging structure in place until the end of 2018, and retaining Irish Water in its current form.

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But if it is serious about getting things right and attaining some level of public acceptance, it will have to make some changes.

Opposition parties will also have to come up with well-costed alternatives if they want to scrap charges and replace Irish Water.

Here are some suggestions:

Show us the money

The Eurostat decision redacts key pieces of information which the public should know. Omitted data includes projected borrowings to fund upgrades over the next eight years; the amount government intends paying, Irish Water's analysis of how much it will collect from domestic customers and how much it intends setting aside in bad debts. For transparency, this information should be published.

Have one boss

Four government departments have a hand in the day-to-day running of the company - Public Expenditure and Reform, Environment, Finance and Energy. Four masters are hard to please. One with a bit of acumen should be given responsibility, and only be given powers to interfere in limited circumstances.

Independent regulation

The Government told the regulator that 'average' bills should be no more than €240 per household. That meant it could not decide the most appropriate charge, which results in the State subsidising the cost to a large degree.

Introduce measures for low-income families

There's a fuel allowance which Eurostat has no problem with. There's no reason why a similar water payment couldn't be made, and the ESRI has already said how this could work.

Scrap the Service Level Agreements

It was always madness to sign-up to 12-year contracts with the local authorities to operate the network.

A Government decision to avoid industrial unrest, they need to be sharply reduced in scope to help make maximum possible savings.

Pay the bonuses to most water staff

Given the Government knew about the performance- related payment system which Irish Water was going to employ, deciding it was no longer appropriate well after the utility was established smacked of political cowardice. They should be paid to staff, but not senior management, to encourage high-performance.

Reduce the subsidies

The State is paying too much towards treatment costs. This is of no benefit to consumers, as they pay for it from general taxation at the expense of other services.

Remove the cap

This is a nonsense, solely introduced for political reasons. It does nothing to encourage conservation and needs to go.

'Four masters are hard to please. One with a bit of acumen should be given responsibility'

Irish Independent

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