Water charges: focus shifts to refunds after FF deal with FG

Oireachtas committee report advises repayments be made to householders

 

Fianna Fáil has called on the Government to set aside money for water charge refunds in October’s budget.

The move follows the publication of the final report of the Oireachtas committee on water charges on Wednesday which recommended the thousands of householders who paid their charges receive their money back.

Minister for Housing Simon Coveney said last night he would consult with the Department of Expenditure and Reform as well as the Department of Finance on the best way to deal with refunds.

Simon Coveney: the Minister said he would consult with the Department of Expenditure and Reform and the Department of Finance about refunds. Photograph: Eric Luke
Simon Coveney: the Minister said he would consult with the Department of Expenditure and Reform and the Department of Finance about refunds. Photograph: Eric Luke

The €100 conservation grant paid to households would be deducted from refunds when they are paid out, he indicated.

Fianna Fáil spokesman on housing Barry Cowen said it was a matter for the Government to examine how the monies are paid back.

However he said his party believed this should be examined in a budgetary context. Mr Cowen said: “I would expect them to respond to recommendations as soon as possible. I would expect that clarification on refunds will be given ahead of the budget.

Listen to Inside Politics

“There is an onus on the Government to act on the committee’s recommendations.”

Other recommendations of the final report of the Oireachtas committee on water charges include a levy for excessive usage of water, installation of meters in new builds and a referendum to enshrine Irish Water in public ownership. Only 13 of the 20 members of the Oireacthas committee agreed with the contents of the final report.

Householders who live alone and paid their water charges in full could be entitled to €200 in refunds and those who paid their five bills in total and live in a household of more than one person, could be entitled to €325. If they received the €100 conservation grant it would be deducted from these amounts.

The Fianna Fáil parliamentary party meeting discussed the detail of the deal last night.

Party leader Micheál Martin told the party’s TDs and Senators that people would see over time that water charges had ended and Fianna Fáil had stayed true to its commitments.

He said Government chief whip Regina Doherty had the most elegant line of the weekend when she described Fine Gael’s policy on water charges as a “cock-up”.

Mr Cowen told the meeting Fine Gael had delayed the publication of the final report and had wasted the past 10 days, when differences between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil risked causing a snap election.

Some members raised concerns that those on group water schemes had been neglected by the final report.

Mr Cowen was also urged to ensure the Government adhere to its commitment to establish an external body to oversee the work of Irish Water.