MINISTER FOR THE ENVIRONMENT Phil Hogan today insisted that the water charge system would be completely publicly owned, despite government plans to privatise certain state assets.
Yesterday, the government announced the creation of a new state-owned subsidiary of Bord Gáis Éireann called Irish Water which will oversee the delivery of water services.
Speaking to the Newstalk Breakfast programme, Hogan said that Irish Water will be fully publicly owned even though part of its Bord Gáis are being sold. The government will introduce “the necessary legislation” next year to ensure this, he said.
The minister also said that people will not be charged for the installation of the new water meters, but added that consumers will face a standing charge akin to other services such as electricity and gas supplies.
“There will be no charge to any customer with regard to the installation of meters,” he said, adding that he expects the first water charges to be made in late 2014: “By the end of 2014, there will be a bill coming in the door.”
However, he did not specify what those charges could cost consumers, saying that a number of different issues and concerns would be brought up when the negotiations over the charges begin between the regulator and Irish Water.
Independent TD Stephen Donnelly criticised the introduction of the metering system on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, saying that “there’s no inherent value to suddenly having 1.5 million water meters outside people’s houses.”
“It has this feel to me of some twit in the IMF or the ECB, when they got control of Ireland, saying – way back in my university years my microeconomics tells me that you charge for consumption and that leads to a better outcome, and sure let’s do that to the Irish while we control their country.”
He said that the IMF has a “shaky track record” of implementing plans which in theory make sense, but which in practice are the wrong things to do during difficult economic periods.
Donnelly described the charge as a ‘tax’ and said that people had been paying for water for decades, and criticised the government’s decision to run Irish Water under Bord Gáis without putting the service out to tender.
Opposition parties have accused the government of keeping people in the dark over the introduction of the new charges by failing to provide enough information on the projected cost to consumers.