Saturday 21 April 2018

No transparency with water charges, says IBEC

Roundwood reservoir in Co Wicklow
Roundwood reservoir in Co Wicklow
Sarah McCabe

Sarah McCabe

BUSINESSES in some parts of the country are paying far more for water than others, according to business group IBEC.

New research from the representative body for Irish businesses found major differences in the cost of water across local authority areas.

Businesses in Co Wicklow pay the most, at €3.03 per cubic metre of water, while those in nearby Co Kildare pay the least, at €1.59.

Just one local authority cut its water charges in 2013, whereas nine others imposed hikes, ranging between 3pc and 11pc.

In some counties such as Louth and in the Fingal area of Dublin, authorities blamed the increases on the rising cost of electricity and the chemicals used in water treatment. However IBEC rejected this claiming energy and raw materials account for less than a fifth of total costs of water treatment.

"Water charges are rising in many areas, but it is not clear how much, if any, of the extra money is being invested in the water service," said Neil Walker, head of energy and environment at the organisation.

"The current system lacks transparency and accountability. It is crucial that the planned transition to Irish Water does not lead to further increases for commercial users. The regulator must ensure that ongoing reforms do not undermine the ability of businesses to survive, compete and create jobs."

Criticising waste, as well as water charges, IBEC said local authority rates are set at "boom-time highs" and do not reflect the fact that sales have dropped by a quarter on average since the start of the year among businesses.

"Business pays €1.4bn every year in commercial rates and a further €200m in water charges," added Mr Walker.

"Companies operating in the domestic economy have seen turnover fall by 25pc in recent years, but this has not been reflected in local charges.

"Local authorities need to reduce their costs and pass on the savings."

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