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Varadkar to bring in price regulation if operators hike up bin charges

Fianna Fáil has tabled a motion on bin charges in the Dáil this evening.

Image: RollingNews.ie

Updated 3pm

TAOISEACH LEO VARADKAR says price regulation of bin charges will be introduced if necessary.

During Leaders’ Questions this afternoon, Varadkar acknowledged that there is a concern among the public about a sudden or massive hike in bin charges under the guise of a new system.

“We understand that this concern exists and it is a legitimate fear that people may have so we have agreed to put in place a watchdog that will monitor prices and we reserve the right as a Government to bring in price regulation if the industry hikes prices or uses this change as a cover for dramatically hiking prices,” he said.

He said it will be least 15 months before the new bin charges regime is introduced.

He indicated that this will give enough time for rolling contracts to lapse, resulting in the end to flat-fee charging.

“I should point out that this is not unregulated industry. This is not a free-for-all. A licensing system is in place. Someone cannot just collect bins. They need a licence in order to do so,” added Varadkar.

Asked about the new scheme at a press conference earlier today, Varadkar said the new charges aim to tackle Ireland’s reliance on landfill, which he said is unsustainable.

He said he did not want any more landfill sites to be opened, adding:

I don’t want anyone to have to live behind a new dump.

The Taoiseach defended the new scheme stating that it is a “sound environmental decision”.

Flat fee abolition

It was announced last Tuesday that flat fee bin charges are to be scrapped in a shaking-up of the waste charging regime.

This means the ‘all-in flat rate’ charging for household waste will start to be phased out as customers renew or enter new service contracts.

Minister Denis Naughten said the customer will be able to control their own bin charges through a number of options.

Under the new arrangement, waste collectors will be given the flexibility to continue to offer, or to introduce, a range of incentivised pricing options to their customers.

These options include the option of standing charges, per-lift, per-kilogramme, weight-bands, as well as weight allowance charges.

Opposition parties have been lining up in protest against the new charging regime.

Need for waste regulator

Fianna Fáil have called for an independent regulator to be set up before any changes are made to the current bin charging regime.

Speaking in advance of the party’s Private Members motion, which will be taken tonight in Dáil, the party spokesperson on Communications, Climate Change and Environment Timmy Dooley said there is “deep unease” that the changes “will lead to rocketing prices”.

Dooley said that a waste regulator “is desperately needed to ensure that there is no price gouging and fixing in the industry”, and so that consumers have someone to complain to if they have issues with their operator.

“The Government over the past 12 months have failed to deliver on the promises they made to allay the fears many consumers had about changes to the charging regime, and the ending, in particular, of flat fees,” he told reporters in Leinster House this morning.

Dooley said an independent regulator, which will set limits on prices, will provide security for householders. However, last week, Naughten said the government could play no role in price setting due to competition law.

It’s understood the government wiil submit a counter motion in the Dáil this week.

Work together?

It was envisaged that Sinn Féin would put down their own motion this week on bin charges, however Fianna Fáil’s private members time slot came up first, forcing Sinn Féin to withdraw their motion.

Fianna Fáil have called on Sinn Féin to support their motion this week.

“If they want to play politics with it and cast aspirtions that is up to themselves. There is an opportunity for them to be responsible today, to challenge the government in an effective way, with ourselves… it is not about political point scoring,” said Dooley.

Last night, a motion to stop the implementation of new bin charge systems was passed by Dublin City Council (DCC).

Sinn Féin councillor Daithí Doolan said: “ It is hugely significant that Dublin City Council voted to support the Sinn Féin motion. This sends out a very loud and clear message to the Government, their proposals on bin charges are punitive and wrong. They should be immediately stopped.

The seeds for the current crisis in waste management were sown by consecutive governments pursuing a privatisation agenda. Simply privatising the industry and walking away is not an option.

“Dublin City Council has spoken in one voice tonight. This council demands Minister Naughten to stop these new charges,  establish a central regulator, introduce steps to reduce, reuse and recycle waste and introduce a waiver system for low income families.”

The Labour Party also have concerns about the new regime, with Senator Sean Sherlock stating that the changes will cause a vaccum in charges before September and allow companies to act with “cartel-like behaviour”. Meanwhile, the Social Democrats have said there should be “no free-for-all” for the waste companies.

- With additional reporting from Garreth MacNamee.

Read: Flat charges on your bins are to be scrapped>

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