Thursday 23 November 2017

Coalition at war over water charges

Filling glass of water from stainless steel kitchen faucet
Filling glass of water from stainless steel kitchen faucet
Fionnan Sheahan

Fionnan Sheahan

The Coalition is at war over water charges with the Labour Party accusing Fine Gael of coming up with half-baked proposals.

A family of four is expected to pay €248 a year in water charges, with a free allowance per household and additional free allowance for children.

But Labour are set to veto the Fine Gael proposals in a "major disagreement" within Cabinet.

The junior coalition party are furious with their partners for trying to "railroad it through".

"It's the most serious disagreement to date. The thing is half-baked, they have not thought through details of key issues like metering, standing charge, ability to pay, vulnerable groups like pensioners, conservation etc. Would not survive public scrutiny if let out in current form. Fine Gael's desire to have a number out there has blinded them to lack of detail on critical issues," a senior government source said.

But a Fine Gael source said the proposal would give certainty to householders and ensured the allowance for children covered their needs.

And it would also contain a promise to fix the first leak householders detect, along with pledges to develop 57 waste water projects across the country.

The charge will be €240 for the average household or €248 for a family of four.

"€240 is the lowest it can be be. The cat is out of the bag now," a source said.

The disclosure for the first time of the annual water bill for a household of two adults and two children is slightly lower than the previously expected cost of €300 a year.

The free allowance to be given to householders will be the same in 2015 and 2016, meaning the bill should be same.

But householders will still pay for every drop of water used beyond the most basic morning routine.

The allowance will be a mixture of an allocation per basic household and an additional allocation per child.

The Coalition was planning to claim children will get their water for free.

The Government estimates the average cost per home across the country will be €240.

For a family of two adults and two children - which is slightly larger than the normal household - this works out at €248.

The Government subsidy for Irish Water will be €537m per annum.

Without the subvention being this large, the average household cost would be €580 a year.

The subvention will be used to cover a free allowance for the household, plus additional allowances per child.

Following a public backlash, the Government has rejected Irish Water’s demands for a large standing charge of up to €100 a year.

The standing charge will now be €50 a year - €12.50 per quarterly bill.

The details of the charging will be discussed by the Government today.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny had promised householders will know the rough estimate of the bills before the local and European elections.

But the free allowance of water is expected to only cover a shower, brushing your teeth and two toilet flushes for just one person.

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