Minister says language in water charge letters ‘over the top’

Alan Kelly says department will write to councils following eviction warnings

Alan Kelly: “It is important that RAS tenants are informed of their obligations without raising any unnecessary concerns.” Photograph: Aidan Crawley

Alan Kelly: “It is important that RAS tenants are informed of their obligations without raising any unnecessary concerns.” Photograph: Aidan Crawley

 

Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly has acknowledged the language used in a letter sent by local authorities to Rent Allowance Supplement (RAS) tenants about water charges was “unhelpful and over the top”.

The letters were sent by Wicklow and Meath county councils to tenants warning them of the possibility of eviction if they did not pay water charges.

Mr Kelly said last night his department will shortly issue a circular to local authorities.

“It will outline the need to ensure that a co-ordinated and consistent approach is taken to communication with RAS tenants concerning obligations in relation to Irish Water,” he said.

“It is important that RAS tenants are informed of their obligations without raising any unnecessary concerns.”

Meanwhile Irish Water, which has fielded calls from 85,000 people since the beginning of the month, has denied it is in crisis.

A company spokeswoman confirmed it has outsourced its call centre operations to a company based in Cork but she said she could not say how much the operation was costing.

Tánaiste’s criticism She was speaking after Tánaiste Joan Burton expressed concern that Irish Water was not dealing with customer queries “efficiently, reliably and in a timely way”. “When members of the public contact the LoCall number that Irish Water gives out, you can end up waiting in the line for quite a long time to get a response and after that you can spend a lot longer getting a more detailed response,” she said.

The Irish Water spokeswoman denied the company was in crisis but did not comment when asked how many people had returned the application forms to date.

She said the company would not be commenting until the deadline for forms to be returned to the company had passed, other than to say it was looking at extending the deadline beyond the end of the month.

“We may consider that, although ultimately that will be a matter for the Commission for Energy Regulation, ” she said.