Problems of water supply

 

Sir, – In suggesting that a single regulator for Irish Water might be simpler, John FitzGerald (Business Opinion, July 10th) has overlooked the clear need for separate checks on monopolies, particularly those controlled by the State. Without the transparency brought by independent monitoring of State-provided services, our experience is that bad administration and low standards are ignored. As an example, it took the Medical Bureau of Road Safety to point out that Garda-administered breathalyser tests numbers did not correspond to its records of kits issued. The Government created Irish Water after decades of underinvestment by central government in water services. The legislation was rushed through the Dáil, despite the funding of water services having been politically controversial for decades. Having lost most of their powers of independent revenue raising, local authorities have been reduced to dependence on whimsical funding from central government. A 2013 Council of Europe report on local democracy in Ireland noted that “ the system of distribution of grants to local governments from the local government fund is not transparent and the rules have been set without consultation with local authorities . . . the equalisation formula existed for a short period only . . . the equalisation system remains a mystery to practically everyone in the local government system”. Providing resilient and sustainable water services is complex. Our understanding of the issues and costs involved would not be enhanced by yet more centralisation. Our trust in public authorities would not be enhanced by the fusion of the standard-setting and monitoring functions of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), with the Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU), a separate State body responsible for regulating some network-based monopolies. – Yours, etc,

DONAL O’BROLCHAIN,

Drumcondra,

Dublin 9.