Water charges delayed until after Christmas

First bills won’t need to be paid until late spring under new Coalition plans

Gardaí attempt to remove a protestor from the bonnet of Enda Kenny’s car as it arrives at the Sligo Park Hotel. Photograph: James Connolly

Gardaí attempt to remove a protestor from the bonnet of Enda Kenny’s car as it arrives at the Sligo Park Hotel. Photograph: James Connolly

 

Households will not be charged for the water they use until after Christmas under the substantially recast water charges plan to be announced by the Coalition on Wednesday.

Under the original plan, homes were to be charged for the water use from the start of last month, with the bills due to arrive at the end of January.

However, in an effort to allow people get used to the new charging structures to be announced tomorrow, charging will effectively be suspended for three months.

Even though this means Irish Water will lose out on some planned revenue, Coalition figures insisted last night it would still pass the market capitalisation test to allow the company stay off State balance sheet for the purpose of EU rules.

The Cabinet will today discuss the charges package and Government TDs have all been instructed to be present at Leinster House tomorrow and Thursday. Two days have been set aside for debate on the issue and a vote will be taken on a Government motion.

The deadline for registering with Irish Water has already been extended by a month from the end of October until the end of this month and may be extended further.

Last month, with only half of eligible households having registered, Irish Water requested a month’s extension to the registration period, which would have had the knock-on effect of delaying bills – although the amount to be paid would stay the same.

However, a number of sources tonight confirmed that water charges would now not apply until January 2015.

Bills from Irish Water will have to be paid on a quarterly basis, which means the first bills will apply for January, February and March and will not have to be paid until late spring, around April.

The broad outline of the revised plan has largely emerged at this stage, and is expected to be discussed by Ministers tomorrow. The new system will mean an effective annual charge of less than €200 per household. Every household that registers with Irish Water and gives details to the Department of Social Protection will be entitled to an annual rebate of about €100. This payment will be available to all compliant households. It will replace the budget tax concession and other allowances.

There will also be a simpler charging model, based on two rates. The first rate of €176 a year will be for a single-adult household, and the second €278 rate for a household of two adults or more.

When the universal allowance is taken into account, it will mean the annual bill for households with two children will be less than €200, and single households will pay less than €100 a year.The water charges cap will also be in place until at least 2018.

When the universal allowance is taken into account, it will mean the annual bill for households with two children will be less than €200, and single households will pay less than €100 a year. The water charges cap will also be in place until at least 2018.

In ongoing tensions over the charges, Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s car was attacked and blocked during tense scenes in Sligo last night.

A small group of anti-water charges protesters surrounded Mr Kenny’s car, kicking and banging it with placards, while one man who climbed on the bonnet had to be pulled away by gardaí.

Mr Kenny later criticised those involved in the melee, saying it was lucky no one was injured. “From what I could see they had no regard for women and children,” he said.

He said that while people had a right to voice their opinions in a democracy, questions had to be asked given that assurances had been given that the road would not be blocked.

One young woman collapsed and was taken by ambulance to Sligo Regional Hospital.

A crowd of about 400 people had been participating in a peaceful protest at the entrance to the Sligo Park Hotel where the Taoiseach was due to address a Fine Gael regional meeting attended by local TDs, senators and party members.

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