Charge for excessive water use to be levied after six months’ grace
Parties close to agreeing on introduction of charge as part of redrawing of 2007 law
Oireachtas committee will meet again today and will commit to holding a referendum enshrining public ownership of Irish Water in the Constitution
Homeowners found to be using exessive quanties of water would be given six months to sort out the problem before facing penalties under new proposals.
The Oireachtas committee examining the future of the charges considered a draft report Tuesday which outlined the options open to its 20 members. The main point of contention remains whether householders should pay a charge or face a fine if they are found to abuse their supply.
Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael are close to agreeing on the introduction of a levy homeowners would face for exceeding what is deemed normal usage of water. The proposal is also contained in the draft report of the committee and is supported by its chairman, Senator Pádraig Ó Céidigh.
The levy would be similar to the one on plastic bags, which generates little revenue but alters people’s habits.
Reduce leakageThe report says users, who would otherwise be liable to an excessive usage charge, will be provided with a grace period of at least two quarters - or six months - to reduce leakage below the appropriate threshold. This period may be extended in certain circumstances with the approval of Irish Water.
The proposal would be included in a fundamental redrawing of the 2007 Water Services Act.
Fine Gael is not fully committing to the compromise until legal advice from the Oireachtas parliamentary legal adviser is considered by the committee.
The party insists any agreement reached by the committee must be in compliance with the European Water Framework Directive, which has stressed the polluter must pay and costs should be recovered from the consumer.
Fine Gael is also seeking to remove the threat of taking householders to court or removing their water supply.
The Oireachtas committee will meet again today and will commit to holding a referendum enshrining public ownership of Irish Water in the Constitution.
Advisory bodyIt will also agree to establish an external advisory body to oversee the work of the utility.
Committee members will be given an additional month to decide how to proceed with the water metering programme, how to assist those on group water schemes and whether those who paid their charges should be given refunds.
There are varying positions in the committee on the issues with Fine Gael not expressing a preference on the last two measures.
Sinn Féin and the Anti-Austerity Alliance are seeking full refunds while Fianna Fáil wants the water conservation grant deducted from any payment. Fine Gael believes that those who did not pay the charges should be pursued initially.
The committee will have until April 14th to conclude its work, meaning the members will miss their self-imposed deadline by four weeks.
Sinn Féin TD Eoin Ó Broin has said this was unnecessary.
“This issue should have been put to bed at the start of this Dáil term,” he said.