Water charges: committee given four weeks to resolve dispute

Group is discussing a range of options but is unlikely to reach a final agreement today

Fine Gael and Labour support charges while Fianna Fail, Sinn Féin and the Anti-Austerity Alliance are arguing against a continuation of the programme.

Fine Gael and Labour support charges while Fianna Fail, Sinn Féin and the Anti-Austerity Alliance are arguing against a continuation of the programme.

 

An Oireachtas committee is to be given four additional weeks to resolve a dispute over water charges.

Chairman of the committee Pádraig O’Ceidigh has requested additional space to allow the committee conclude its report by April 14th.

Members were given a draft report on Monday outlining the various positions adopted by the parties.

On the issue of excessive usage, Fine Gael and Labour outlined their preference for a charge to be levied on householders abusing water.

Fianna Fáil supports penalties for those who waste water in line with the 2007 Water Services Act.

Mr O’Ceidigh has proposed normal or excessive usage should be determined by the Commission for Energy Regulation.

He also suggested that the CER be allowed to advise homeowners on how to discourage excessive usage and what point financial penalties should commence.

Mr O’Ceidigh stresses any changes to existing legislation should be addressed as a matter of urgency.

Minister for Housing Simon Coveney confirmed to The Irish Times that he is amenable to amending the 2007 Water Services Act if necessary.

Mr Coveney said he would propose a fundamental altering of the legislation or would require new legislation.

The draft report, being examined by the Oireachtas water committee, says consideration should be given to the introduction of an excessive user charge in line with the policy of the plastic bag levy.

The committee acknowledges the charge would not be a sustainable source of income for investment in water services over the long-term but would drive conservation.

Another option would be to allow householders a grace period of at least six months to reduce leakage below the appropriate threshold.

The draft report is a paper full of options for the committee to discuss.

On metering Labour and Fine Gael stress the need for the programme to be rolled out.

Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin and the Anti-Austerity Alliance are arguing against a continuation of the programme.

The report outlines three options on the future of metering - legally requiring households to have meters installed, mandatory metering in new builds and the final is that the committee examine cost effective options for installation of meters.

The committee is also examining how Irish Water is funded without a charging regime. The draft paper proposes the Oireachtas budgetary committee consider multi-annual budgeting for the utility.

On the issue of refunds Fine Gael has not stated a preference but Fianna Fáil proposes the payments be distributed by Revenue.

For those on group water schemes the committee is asked to consider a number of options.

Independents4Change TD Thomas Pringle, the Anti-Austerity Alliance and Sinn Féin suggest the subvention should be increased.

Fianna Fáil says current levels should be maintained. Fine Gael does not express a position.