Dáil warned legislation will open floodgates for new Irish Water authority to be privatised

Fri, Feb 15, 2013, 00:00

The Government is bringing in legislation for the privatisation of the newly established water authority Irish Water despite assurances to the contrary, the Dáil has been warned.

Fianna Fáil public expenditure spokesman Sean Fleming said the Water Services Bill was “all about the establishment of a legal, corporate identity” rather than the provision of water. And he warned that the same thing could happen with its privatisation as happened with Eircom.

The Government might give an assurance the service would not be privatised but “the Minister’s assurance is only good for today”. It would not hold water in five or 10 years’ time when a different Minister might be in place and a different attitude prevailing, he said.

Bord Gáis subsidiary

“The Government is making the process of privatising Irish Water very simple by giving responsibility for it as a separate subsidiary to Bord Gáis”, which the Cabinet was in the process of privatising, Mr Fleming said.

If the Government was selling one part of the activity of Bord Gáis today, “it is not too much of a leap to assume it could sell another part of its activity a number of years down the road”.

He believed the authority would be charging for waste water, as well as water coming into households because its advert for a chief executive referred to water and waste water. He said Irish Water intended to charge for water leaving a house and going to a sewage treatment, which meant an extra charge would be imposed.

Mr Fleming called for no charges to be imposed for the first three to five years of Irish Water’s operation, when it should focus on fixing the country’s water mains and pipes. When a system fit for purpose was in place Irish Water would “be entitled to charge consumers for their usage of water”.

Blank cheque’

But the legislation was a blank cheque for Bord Gáis to “send bills to this country’s unfortunate consumers in respect of its costs, its waste and its overheads”, he said.

The consumer should not have to pay for the 40 per cent of water lost through waste and inefficiency. He said when it came to telephones, customers paid for calls and with electricity they paid only for what came into their house.