Labour won’t be bound by FG water targets, says Gilmore
Tánaiste insists issues over metering and ability to pay have still to be resolved
Labour candidate for Dublin Emer Costello with Labour Party leader Eamon Gilmore at the Dublin City Sheriffs Office yesterday where Ms Costello signed her election nomination papers. Photograph: David Sleator
Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore has said Labour will not be bound by Fine Gael deadlines on agreement for water charges, after Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan said all outstanding issues would be settled within 10 days.
Mr Hogan this week said the remaining details on water charges would be outlined following a Cabinet meeting next week, adding: “The Taoiseach and the Government are going to be honest with the Irish people in the run-up to the first electoral contest on May 23rd.”
However, Mr Gilmore yesterday said Labour was “not going to be bound by any timetable”, and said a number of issues have yet to be resolved.
“We are going to insist on getting it right,” the Tánaiste said at a press conference to mark Labour MEP Emer Costello handing in her nomination papers for the Dublin constituency in the European Parliament elections.
“We have to ensure we deal with the issue of households that won’t be metered; deal with the issue of ability to pay.
“I can’t say when we will do that, but as with every other issue that we have addressed in the lifetime of this Government, we will insist on getting it right.”
Mr Gilmore added that water charges should “have been dealt with months ago”.
Mr Gilmore clashed with Taoiseach Enda Kenny at last week’s Cabinet meeting on the water charges issue after Labour felt it was being “bounced into” accepting proposals from Mr Hogan.
Mr Kenny had given a promise in the Dáil that people would know the level of charges before the local and European elections, and the Taoiseach then told the Dáil last week the average charge would be about €240.
Labour was angered by what it saw as Fine Gael pushing for a figure to be made public to keep Mr Kenny’s promise.
Senior Labour sources have since said the row was mostly about how Fine Gael had handled the water charges issue rather than any substantial policy differences between the two Coalition partners.
Labour’s main problem is how to levy water charges on those who do not have meters installed by the time the charges are introduced, with the first bills due to be sent in January.
Mr Gilmore said three-quarters of homes would not have meters installed by then. “The first is what do we do about the three out of four households who won’t be metered by the end of this year. Secondly, how do we deal with ability to pay, particularly for households on low incomes.”
Sources on both sides of the Government have said anyone without meters will have their charge based on similar homes with meters with a similar number of people, such as two adults and two children, living in them.
Homes without meters will be able to claim a rebate when the meter is installed if their bills are below the assessed charges initially applied. The rebate will be available for a limited period, understood to be two to three months.