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We did not lie to voters on water charges, says Bruton

JOBS Minister Richard Bruton has rejected claims voters were lied to about the cost of water charges before the local and European elections.

Mr Bruton defended the Government after the promised average household charge of €238 turnout out to be €278 for a family of four and €483 for a family of four with two grown-up children.

When asked if the public had been lied to, Mr Bruton said: "Absolutely not".

Under the charging system, a family with two adult children will be hit with water bills of almost €500 a year, despite Government promises to keep the 'average' charge per household at €238.

A household with just two adults and no children will also pay €278 - €40 above what the Government promised families would pay in advance of last May's local and European elections.

Allowance

The Government's claim that children won't pay came under fire after the water regulator approved a sharp reduction in the free allowance proposed for children.

According to the official estimates, a family with two adults and two children under 18 will also pay €278.

But the Government had said that up to 38,000 litres a year would be allocated, which has been reduced to just 21,000 litres. It means parents will only be given enough free water for their children to take one shower and flush the toilet once each day.

Everything else will have to be paid for. The dramatic reduction came about because Irish Water claimed children used less water than previously thought and the regulator agreed.

Mr Bruton said the charging system was very clear.

"Children will go free. Older people will have a €100 household charge, free charge, like free electricity. This system will be fair to all.

"Obviously, any system where you have high usage, you are going to pay more, but this allows people, obviously, to economise on their usage. It's designed in that way," he said.

"Over time we will provide a system that is fit for the 21st century. At the moment, you can go out to any part of the city and the supply is on a knife-edge, some parts of our country have boil notices where the water is inferior.

"We need to invest in a system that is sustainable for the 21st century. And this is a fair approach," he added.

Mr Bruton said the only way to get investment was by bringing in charges.

"I am very pleased we now have a structure that will be seen to be fair. Provision for senior citizens, for the €100 on household benefit, children will be free, there will be a free allowance first for each household, no standing charge.

"So we have delivered, I think, as fair as possible a structural charge as we could," he said.

Labour Party minister Ged Nash said the average charge will be €238: "That is an objective fact."

The Junior Jobs Minister said it was important for Irish Water to remain in public ownership.

Principles

"We wanted to make sure we create a new public system, governed by public principles with oversight by the Oireachtas, where the charging regime is managed in a public way by the Commission for Energy Regulation," he said.

After the full cost of water charges, another 400 households were warned against drinking their water.

Irish Water advised people living in Ballynanty in Limerick city not to drink the water, use it to prepare food or diluted drink, including baby formula or ice cubes because of high levels of lead.

Water restrictions will also remain in place over the weekend for 1,500 people living in Kildysart, Co Clare.

hnews@independent.ie


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