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Water grant a headache for Joan Burton's department

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Joan Burton

Joan Burton

Joan Burton

The Department of Social Protection has today moved to assure people that there will be no difficulties processing the €100 water conservation grant despite sending a letter to the Department of Public Expenditure claiming extra resources would be needed to administer the payout.

New documents show that Joan Burton's department wrote to the department run by Brendan Howlin last November to warn that it would not be able to cover the cost of the grant and all the extra costs of administering it on its allocated budget.

The letter warned that because of the Government's revised approach to water charges, i.e. allowing householders apply for a non means-tested €100 water conservation grant, the Department of Social Protection would need more money.

After the letter was published today, the Department of Social Protection issued a statement saying it anticipates "no issues" in processing the grant.

"The Department is still assessing the resource requirements in respect of new initiatives for the payments system and work is ongoing," the statement to the Herald said.

"The Department processes approximately 85 million payments a year and anticipates no issues in processing the Water Conservation Grant," it added.

Earlier, Independent TD Catherine Murphy branded the grant "an exercise in creative accounting".

"It has nothing to do with water conservation. It has everything to do with satisfying the Eurostat test in relation to Irish Water," the Kildare politician said.

INCOME

Under that test, Irish Water has to prove it can generate more than 50pc of its own income in order to be classed as an independent company capable of borrowing money.

"This grant was pretty much a sweetener to encourage people to sign up to Irish Water," said deputy Murphy.

"The whole thing is a fiasco. When you strip out the costs of Irish Water itself and the grant, the actual net amount available to fix the leaky pipes and the inadequate water treatment plants is very little," she told RTE radio.

cfeehan@herald.ie


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