Councillors lead revolt against 'privatisation' of water supply
FEARS are growing that there will be further significant delays in the roll-out of water meters because of a backlash against Irish Water from angry councillors across the country.
Councillors in Donegal have vowed to bring down their own council unless the Government's 'privatisation' of water services is stopped. They have called for other local authorities to follow their example.
Despite an insistence from an Irish Water spokeswoman last night that it is happy with the level of co-operation from councils, the Irish Independent has learnt of significant "teething problems" between the agency and several councils over the transfer of assets.
The majority of homes across the country will be hit with a flat water charge from October, as fewer than 80,000 homes have been metered so far.
Irish Water targets suggest 320,000 meters will be installed by the time billing begins and just over 400,000 by year end, but government figures have conceded that this target is "very likely to be missed".
The Commission for Energy Regulation, which will determine the tariffs and rates to be paid, said people will begin to receive bills from January 2015 but most will be hit with the flat charge as meters will not be in place in time.
Environment Minister Phil Hogan's department estimates that just over a million households will have had water meters installed by the end of 2016.
The department confirmed last night that it will take control of Donegal County Council from next Tuesday after Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein joined forces and refused to pass the 2014 budget.
A marathon meeting finally ended in the early hours of yesterday morning with councillors from all parties believing that the council would be dissolved. But late legal advice from county manager Seamus Neely means that they will meet again next Monday.
Independent councillor John Campbell said: "I am opposed to the privatisation of our water supply. This is an attack on rural Ireland."
The leader of Fianna Fail on the council, Cllr Ciaran Brogan, told the Irish Independent he believed the council would fold next week.
He said: "The whole country is being sleep-walked into privatising water in this country. It won't be long before we see massive call-out fees and if you want access to water in rural areas and it's not economically viable, you won't get it.
"I hope county councils across the country wake up to what's going on before it's too late and take a stand against Phil Hogan."
He said the local party had taken the decision to bring the council down and there had been no consultation with the party nationally.
Three Sinn Fein councillors and one independent voted with Fianna Fail to defeat a budget proposal from Fine Gael and Labour.