Monday 19 February 2018

Water staff numbers swell to more than 4,700 nationwide

Consumers will pay a high price for the cost of providing their water
Consumers will pay a high price for the cost of providing their water

Paul Melia Environment Correspondent

THERE are more people running the water network today than a year ago despite promises to reduce costs and make the system more efficient.

New figures show that more than 4,300 people are operating water services in the country's local authorities, bolstered by another 410 working in Irish Water.

The councils are providing water services on behalf of the commercial semi-state for up to 12 years under so-called 'Service Level Agreements' (SLAs).

However, the SLAs have been criticised because there may be too many staff than are needed, which will result in customers having to pay higher annual charges to cover the costs of employing them.

In all, there are 4,319 council staff employed. In addition, there are another 412 in Irish Water, with another 51 posts due to be filled shortly.

But Irish Water insisted there was no over-staffing. The staff employed by the company were providing "additional activities" required of a national utility, such as customer service, managing assets and standardising operations, a spokesman said.

Documents also show that some local authority staff are unclear as to their roles and responsibilities under the arrangements.

Meanwhile, it has emerged that some city and county councils have warned that Irish Water may not be providing sufficient funding to maintain existing services, including treating water.

Dublin City Council warned that "day to day operations may be neglected" and "targets may not be met". The biggest water provider in the state highlights that it must ensure that "DCC has sufficient income from Irish Water to continue to provide the service".

It highlighted there was a lack of clarity on responsibility for repairs, especially on metered homes, and warned there was a lack of a "contingency fund for emergencies" should problems arise.

"DCC may not be able to respond to potential emergency situation," it warns, stating Irish Water need to have contingency funds in place. However, Irish Water said there will be "no deterioration in services provided to customers".

Irish Independent

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