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Committee expected to recommend €100m water charges refunds to those who have paid up

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There is growing unease within Government that failure to strike an agreement on the issue could precipitate a general election (Stock photo)

There is growing unease within Government that failure to strike an agreement on the issue could precipitate a general election (Stock photo)

There is growing unease within Government that failure to strike an agreement on the issue could precipitate a general election (Stock photo)

An Oireachtas committee set up to examine the future of water charges is expected to recommend the issuing of refunds to households that have paid their bills to date.

Committee sources last night said there was now a growing consensus that refunds should be issued in lieu of the option of pursuing those who had boycotted the charges.

Members are also leaning towards the introduction of an excessive usage charge, which will be levelled on households found to be wasting water.

The measure is a key recommendation in the report produced by the expert commission on water charges.

Special provisions for those on group water schemes will also form part of the package voted on in the Dáil, sources say.

But TDs and senators remain split on key issues, including whether the metering programme should be continued.

With the Dáil due to debate the issue of water charges next month, the work of the committee has now entered its most critical phase.

There is growing unease within Government that failure to strike an agreement on the issue could precipitate a general election.

While no measures have been agreed, various sources say they believe the issue of refunds has emerged as one of the least contentious issues.

The committee has now sought an option paper in relation to how best to reimburse the one million households that have paid their bills.

It's estimated that refunds will cost the State in the region of €100m.

Given the Dáil arithmetic, the overall fate of water charges will depend on whether Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil can reach a "compromise", according to senior sources in both parties.

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Fine Gael remains in favour of a "modest charge" for households and has said the recommendation by the expert commission that the State becomes the main customer of Irish Water, rather than the household, is doable.

But Fianna Fáil is coming under pressure to soften its position, which has changed on several occasions already.

In its submission to the expert commission, the party proposes the abolition of charges and the funding of the water system through general taxation.


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