Monday 17 June 2019

Only two in five say they will pay new water charge

Government still faces public revolt despite U-turn on water tax regime

Shane Doran

Less than two in five householders say they will pay the Government's revised water charges, a new Sunday Independent/Millward Brown poll reveals.

The stark finding will send shock waves through the embattled Coalition parties, which had just breathed a sigh of relief after the Government won a crucial Seanad vote paving the way for the introduction of the new water charges regime.

The public revolt over the water debacle forced the Coalition into a dramatic U-turn last month, when Environment Minister Alan Kelly announced a greatly reduced annual flat charge of €160 for households, and just €60 for people living alone.

But any hopes the revised charges would stem the tide of anger over the hated tax are firmly quashed by the latest Sunday Independent/Millward Brown poll.

When asked if they intend to pay the Government's revised water charges when the bills arrive though their doors in 2015, just 37pc of those surveyed say they would. This is five per cent less than the 42pc who said they are prepared to pay the charges in a recent Irish Times poll.

Some 30pc firmly said they would not pay for water, despite the reduced charges; 14pc said "it depends", while 10pc said they "don't know".

Those opposed to paying the charges are highest among Sinn Fein voters (55pc) and supporters of Independents (34pc). They are also more likely to be aged between 45 and 54 and be living in Leinster (34pc).

Support for paying was - not surprisingly - highest among Fine Gael supporters (70pc) and among ABs, or upper-middle class (56pc).

Some 46pc of Labour supporters said they are prepared to pay the new charges, compared to 41pc of Fianna Fail voters.

Meanwhile, the Seanad debate on the water charges legislation will resume at midday tomorrow, after it continued into the early hours of yesterday morning.

Senators were accused of filibustering after it took over five hours to debate the first tabled amendment before it was eventually withdrawn by Independent Senator Sean Barrett.

Regardless of the delay, the new Bill is expected to be finally passed by Tuesday.

But the Coalition now faces the much more difficult task of trying to win over a huge section of the population who say they will defy the new laws.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Minister Kelly have insisted there will be no further changes or reductions to the water charges regime. Households have until February 2 to register with Irish Water. Those who refuse to register will be subject to a "default bill" of €260 and will lose out on a €100 rebate. However, the Government has admitted it cannot force people to pay the charge.

The Government's major U-turn on water charges last month significantly undermined its authority, and this, ironically, is reflected the huge number of householders who are not afraid to give the two fingers to the weakened Coalition.

Satisfaction with the Government, according to the poll, fell again in December to its lowest level for the whole year. Less than one in five (19pc) are happy with the Coalition's performance, fuelling opposition claims that the Government has lost its mandate to govern effectively.

As things stand, the FG/Labour coalition that secured the largest mandate in the history of the State now enjoys the support of less than a quarter of the electorate.

Sunday Independent

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