Tuesday 23 October 2018

Irish Water 'will not be able to deliver improvements without full control'

(Stock picture)
(Stock picture)
Paul Melia

Paul Melia

IRISH Water will not be able to deliver significant improvements to the network unless it takes complete control of operations and investment away from councils.

The current system, where local authorities operate the network on behalf of the utility under so-called Service Level Agreements (SLAs),  is not working and adding to costs, it claimed.

Chief executive of Ervia, Mike Quinn, told the Dáil Housing committee that it can reduce operating costs by €70m a year, and deliver improved services.

Ervia is the parent company of Irish Water, and it wants the utility to become a "single public utility" by 2021, four years earlier than originally expected.

Last November, Independent.ie revealed that Irish Water planned to take complete control of the network to help deliver better services to 1.5 million households and businesses.

Mr Quinn told the committee: "We can clearly see the limitations of the current structure."

He said that "multiple and varied ways of working" across councils was leading to service failures and safety issues with water quality; plants with capacity were failing to meet standards because they were poorly operated, and there was "inconsistent" customer service.

He also said the firm was spending €100m a year to private companies to operate plants, and across the system there was "no clear accountability".

The move will result in an overall reduction of some 1,700 workers across the network. Irish Water says there will be no compulsory redundancies. It is not yet clear what the response if unions is.

Mr Quinn said that unless the single public utility model was implemented, it would be difficult to achieve cost savings.

"This is now the right time to take steps to moving towards a single public utility," he said.

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