Fianna Fáil Senator Mary White has called for the immediate suspension of water charges until the infrastructure is fixed. The statement comes following the recent government announcement of a new water charges scheme, marking yet another U-turn by the government in its handling of water policy.
Speaking on Water Sector Reform in the Senate, Senator White said: “It is clear that the establishment of the Irish Water Super Quango has been a complete debacle and it has already lost the support and confidence of the Irish public. This latest U-Turn underlines the complete mess this government has made of our most vital and important natural resource.
“It is still unclear what provision is to be made for those who simply cannot afford to pay for water charges. The new scheme has done away with allowances and this is a serious matter. As the site Money Guide Ireland points out, let us take the example of a single pensioner over 70 with a water meter getting the Household Benefits Package.
“Under the old scheme, they would have received a €100 “Water Support” payment from Social Welfare. Now, they will receive the same amount in the form of a “water conservation grant”.
“Under the old scheme, if they used 51 thousand litres of water a year they would have received a water bill of €102. With the water support payment of €100 from Social Welfare, their net cost would have been €2.
“Now, under the new charging scheme with no free allowance, 51,000 litres of water will run up a charge of €188 – which will be capped at €160. After the €100 “grant” is deducted it leaves people with a net cost of €60, €58 a year more than under the old scheme.
“I propose a new mutually owned holding company where the customers own the company. Delivery will be returned to Local Authorities. The new National Water Infrastructure Company will be drastically slimmed down to 100 staff, Oireachtas control over consultancy costs and no bonus structure, similar to the scale and role of the National Roads Authority.
“The botched implementation of the water charges regime by the government has shaken public trust in the Coalition’s capacity to govern. Domestic charges should only be introduced when the national infrastructure is brought up to standard. This standard should be set according to the 3 key tests of Water Quality, Water Supply and Water Leakage.
“Irish Water has foisted the Irish people who have endured austerity with remarkable resilience until now. It is time to call a halt to Irish Water,” concluded Senator White.