The Government is considering measures to ensure the total water charges bill for families with adult children comes in well below the maximum €424 that will be levied on households that fail to register with Irish Water.
While the broad thrust of the Coalition's revised water package has now emerged, the Economic Management Council (EMC) will meet again this week to consider the plan in further detail.
The Cabinet holds its weekly meeting today, while the EMC meets tomorrow. Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly last night said the final plan would be unveiled next week, promising the charges would be "modest", and Taoiseach Enda Kenny said the Government would bring clarity on the issue "very soon".
The main elements of the plan are understood to comprise the extension of a fixed charge for a number of years; addressing the issue of families with dependent adult children living at home; clarifying issues to do with PPS numbers (though the need for Irish Water customers to provide details will remain); welfare allowances and tax credits to reduce people’s bills; and overhauling the structures and governance of Irish Water, including major changes at board level.
Coalition sources said the issue of dependent children was likely to be dealt with through a family water charges cap, with speculation it may be around the €300 mark, ensuring it is well below the €424 automatically levied on those who do not register.
The lower charges for families are understood to apply until metering, and the moves are designed to allay political anxiety about households who feared they would have to pay €800 or €900.
The Commission for Energy Regulation earlier this year said householders who failed to register with Irish Water would face an annual charge of €424. The regulator said this would be made up of the average charge of €278 for two adults – and they would not receive the annual free allowance of €146 a year.
Despite a number of Labour politicians calling for a referendum to ensure public ownership of water is enshrined in the Constitution, privatisation concerns are likely to be dealt with through legislation.
At a parliamentary party think-in yesterday, Fianna Fáil considered adopting a policy of abolishing Irish Water and pausing the introduction of charges among other options.