Pressure on Enda Kenny to reveal water bill details
TAOISEACH Enda Kenny has pledged to disclose the Government's proposals for water charges within weeks, after it was revealed that homeowners risk being charged €100 before they turn on a tap.
Irish Water yesterday confirmed an Irish Independent report that the semi-state company is seeking the introduction of a standing charge for households, which would guarantee it an average income stream.
The charge, which is expected to be around €100, represents one-third of the expected average bill.
While Irish Water would not comment on the €100 figure, it confirmed that it had made a submission to the Commission of Energy Regulation (CER) regarding its charging structures.
As with bills such as gas and electricity, the standing charge is designed to cover the cost of the meters, providing the supply and customer services.
Such a measure would make it easier for Irish Water to borrow and present itself as a viable company.
The issue of charges is expected to be raised at today's cabinet meeting, after a number of ministers said that they were unaware of the standing charge.
The report by the Irish Independent sparked claims by the Opposition that it was being kept in the dark by the Government.
The accusation was rejected by Mr Kenny (right), who insisted the Government would publish its full proposals for water charges before the local elections. Environment Minister Phil Hogan said the Government still had to finalise its position in relation to standing charges, tariffs and allowances.
"The Government will tell the people when their mind's made up and when a decision is made. So you have to have patience. I know that media people get hung up on speculative stories, but the Government will govern," he said.
However, a Labour source last night said party figures would be "seeking clarification" as to the exact size of any standing charge following the Irish Independent report.
Two Labour cabinet ministers – Joan Burton and Pat Rabbitte – said they were unaware of plans by Irish Water to introduce a standing charge which could be as much as a third of the expected average bill of €300.
"No decision has been made at all. The Government has not yet decided. And whatever Government will decide in respect of the charge for water – the total situation will be taken into account," Mr Rabbitte told RTE.
Meanwhile, Finance Minister Michael Noonan said the level of charges would be decided in due course, adding that exemptions would be made for low-income households.
"All those things have to be decided. What has been done up to now is a very strong decision has been made that we can't continue any longer pouring 40pc of the water that is purified into the ground and that's a total loss to the taxpayer," he said at an event in Limerick.
Age Action Ireland said it was concerned at the proposed standing charge, which was significantly higher than the national average.