Government clarity still needed on water charges

Government clarity still needed on water charges

The new Government might be up and running a couple of weeks now but the great Irish Water debate continues to rumble on.

The issue of water charges was one of the reasons why it took the best part of two and a half months after February’s General Election for a government to be formed.

Fianna Fáil insisted on water charges being shelved in order to support a minority government led by Fine Gael and supported by independents.

In the wake of that deal it was announced that water bills would be suspended from the end of March.

However, with a large number of people having not paid for previous quarters or, indeed, at all the question remains what happens in this instance.

Is it fair that some have met every payment and others haven’t?

The only real statement on the matter was by new government chief whip Regina Doherty who said at the start of the month that the new bills would not “magically disappear” and must be paid until the charges are suspended next month at the end of the current billing cycle.

However, that message hasn’t really got across with Irish Water confirming yesterday that there had been a significant reduction in revenue from water charges from bills sent out at the start of 2016.

The bills relate to services used during the last three months of 2015, suggesting people stopped paying in the build-up to the General Election when the future of water charges were a hot topic. These bills would have been issued to households in January and February.

Figures from the utility showed that the amount collected in charges for Q4 2015 was down by more than 20% compared with the previous billing cycle and that is expected to reduce further yet again with many more households expected to ignore the latest bills.

The amount was €33m down from €42.3m over the previous quarter.

During that period also, 8,000 of the 200,000 customers who had signed up to pay their water charges by direct debit cancelled their direct debit mandates.

However, Irish Water said that a total of 975,000 people had paid domestic water charges during 2015 which is 64% of households liable to the charges.

The total amount collected over the year was €144m which was 53% of the total income due from domestic charges during 2015.

With the matter set to be discussed more in the coming weeks as the due date for payments for the first three months of 2016 approaches, we’d like your opinion.

  • Is it any surprise that people are ignoring the payments?
  • Should the government be clearer about what exactly happens next in relation to water charges?
  • Has Irish Water got a future?

Have your say below…

There are 13 comments for this article
  1. Pingback: Government clarity still needed on water charges | Rosalie Rodney
  2. Sean at 8:49 pm

    I imagine that revenue are delighted, based on this rollback they will never be able to levy a new tax.

  3. STEPHEN at 5:25 pm

    Payment for water should come from Central Government because of the huge investment required. In any event, even if all the revenue was collected from customers it would be a drop in the ocean compared to the investment required. Water is essential to humankind. It isn’t like any other utility(we had water before we had gas, electricity, telephone, broadband, television and so on) it is essential to our very existence and therefore should not be controlled by the whims of corporate Ireland.

    People who have belatedly refused to pay water charges are quite right. However, the people who refused to pay from the beginning should be congratulated for spearheading this campaign for without them corporate Ireland would have devoured us and our water.

    The government should certainly be clearer about where their intentions are leading us. However, with a government that appears to be on a life- line and an opposition party that opposes and yet colludes, the future isn’t bright.

    I don’t believe Irish Water as a corporate dinosaur has a future. A water company for the people of Ireland funded by the government of Ireland is the way forward.

    Can I appeal to Irish politicians and business folk,to please stop telling us what the rest of Europe does with regard to charging its citizens for water; that is their way of doing things not ours. May I also remind politicians that Ireland has opt-out clauses in numerous areas of European legislation so why not WATER.

    • Jac at 1:29 am

      Well said Stephen.
      The actions and utterance of the political class is so annoying.
      All they are after is their careers either in opposition or in government.
      I believe the majority of them are not to improve our life but to divide us and perpetuate themselves.

  4. Mary Robinson at 5:12 pm

    I will not pay any increases in Property Tax to subsidise water supply and treatment to those who have the benefit of such schemes Currently 13.9% of my Property Tax goes to water services that I have no access to. Unless of course the Government introduces a means of reimbursing me for the costs I incur for the delivery of water and treatment of waste water to my home. In the last 12 months this amounted to €1000, excluding 24 hour electricity charges for a water pump and bio-treatment plant. Water charges are a very good deal.

    • glenmac45 at 12:39 pm

      I find your comments curious, and somewhat typical in Ireland. You belong to a Democracy that is underpinned by the Rule of Law. In general that implies that one abides by the laws laid down by the constitutionally elected Government, and paying taxes, by whatever name they are given, is a fundamental assumption. Anyone not abiding by those conventions becomes a criminal.
      If one doesn’t like the rules and regulations then there are two general routes to take, namely change the Government or fight the laws in some other constitutional way.
      Any other approach is tantamount to anarchy which will create its own problems.
      I don’t find your attitude unusual in Ireland. There is an odd combination of generosity and self absorption. Generally these opposites would clash, but the Irish do appear to combine them quite easily.
      I thoroughly agree that the current funding of water is a total shambles, reflecting in some ways the shambles that is the current Government, but criminal actions, i.e. not paying legally created charges, are more likely to allow them to strengthen their hand rather than weaken it.
      The only viable alternative to the above is for every single person in Ireland to refuse to pay – that would then be a democratic judgement, and not easily dismissed by any ruling Government.
      One final comment relates to Property Tax which is basically a wealth tax (renters do not pay) and therefore aimed purely at the “wealthy”, that is those with enough money to own a house (even with negative equity). Moreover there is nothing I have seen in the legislation that allocates the proceeds to a particular area of need. That means the proceeds can be used for any purpose the government sees fit, including jaunts across to the US every March, and probably to France to watch a few of Ireland’s football matches.
      I sympathise with your sentiments based on the facts you have outlined, but not your outlined course of action.

      • STEPHEN at 5:19 pm

        Have you forgotten the brave people of 1916 who opposed the Law of the Day? Some sacrifice while others reap!

        • glenmac45 at 11:17 am

          Stephen – So very true, but it is generally admitted that it was British stupidity that saved the day for those particular Irish Rebels, who had remarkably little general support. And of course there were the “brave people of 1917” who condemned the Russian people to 75 years of tyranny. Or the “brave people” of 2007 who plunged the world into financial chaos. Supporting criminal action to get your own way is a high risk business – and it is often other people who pay the price,

          • STEPHEN at 12:04 pm

            It was the Russian Monarchy who created the problem by being inattentive to their citizens needs and therefore created a vacuum for reactionary powers to take hold. I think Glen we shall have to agree to differ on this one.

          • glenmac45 at 12:24 pm

            But, Stephen, it wasn’t the peasants revolt against the Monarchy that caused the long term problem – I had already agreed that mass action can legitimise action but making it “democratic”. It was the illegal overthrow of the Liberal Kerensky Government by Lenin that led to the succeeding tyranny. Though of course Lenin and Trotsky considered their actions legitimate because they won. To the victor goes the spoils – but do they take the moral high ground?

  5. glenmac45 at 3:41 pm

    Ireland has a second class water system, and with lack of investment it will deteriorate into a third class system. It needs billions invested to bring it up to modern standards. And no one wants to pay for anything. Brilliant.
    Allowing a Government department to look after it means that outlay is at the whim of politicians who can always find something more interesting to sell to the electorate than your effluence. Putting water matters into a corporate structure should (but no guarantees) bypass political vagaries. The corporate structure need not necessarily be in private hands – it can quite easily be wholly owned by the Country. The difference is that water professionals should be running it, not johnny-come-lately politicians. What is then needed then is a regulator with realistic powers to prevent abuse and stupidity. (This works well in the UK.) €180m spent on “consultancy” is both abuse and stupidity that should have been disciplined by the Government, but wasn’t. However water is run the cost comes out of the pockets of the public. At the present time no appears to be responsible for that or even willing to take responsibility for that.
    The answer cannot be don’t pay for water. The result of that will be the death of the next generation through dysentery and other water born diseases If you don’t pay for a future then your children won’t have a future.
    Just because the previous administration made a total b*llocks out of implementing the process does not mean that the basis is wrong. More likely its the implementation.
    Read the literature. Water is becoming a more difficult and dangerous resource. Money has to be spent managing it. It may be freely given by nature, but that very same nature couldn’t give a monkeys whether it flows down rivers or though your houses. And nature hasn’t a clue what to do with your effluence.

  6. Fergus Mc Cauley at 3:30 pm

    Who inherits the arrears if you sell without paying .? Do you need a clearance cert.? Must be a nightmare for solicitors.

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