Friday 19 January 2018

Hissy fit blamed for putting water refunds 'in doubt'

Frustrated over Dáil delays: Fianna Fáil’s Barry Cowen. Photo: Tom Burke
Frustrated over Dáil delays: Fianna Fáil’s Barry Cowen. Photo: Tom Burke
Niall O'Connor

Niall O'Connor

Fianna Fáil has warned that plans to issue water refunds in October's Budget are in doubt as a result of Shane Ross's "hissy fit" over judicial appointments.

The main Opposition party last night claimed the row over the appointment of judges has ensured that other important legislation has been downgraded.

Fianna Fáil's housing spokesperson Barry Cowen accused the Government of prioritising the Judicial Appointments Bill in order to appease Independent Minister Mr Ross.

"The bottom line is this legislation should have been easily passed by the summer recess. Now it is clear that because of the hissy fit by Shane Ross and Finian McGrath, this legislation is in doubt," Mr Cowen told the Irish Independent.

"Taoiseach Leo Varadkar needs to spell out clearly whether the pledge laid down by the committee to ensure no household is treated differently is fulfilled in the Budget," he added.

Last night, a senior Government source admitted that the legislation logjam means it is highly unlikely the water legislation will be passed before the summer recess.

However, the same source insisted Housing and Water Minister Eoghan Murphy will "do his utmost" to ensure refunds are provided for in the Budget.

"This is a priority but unfortunately there is now so much legislation facing us to get over the line," the source said.

After 22 meetings of the Oireachtas water committee, the majority of members voted to scrap the billing system introduced by the Fine Gael/Labour coalition.

In its place will be a new regime that centres upon penalising those who engage in "excess use" or the "wilful waste" of water.

It's estimated that 8pc of households will fall into this category, meaning the vast majority of households won't pay bills whatsoever.

The committee agreed that the regulator will determine what constitutes normal usage. But crucially, the threshold for wastage will be set at 1.7 times this level based on the calculation that the average person uses 133 litres a day.

Allowances will also be introduced for "extraordinary circumstances" such as medical conditions and larger households that use water beyond the threshold level.

Around 70,000 households who currently use 32pc of the country's domestic water supply will be targeted.

Irish Independent

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