THE GOVERNMENT’S PLAN to introduce domestic water charges could be brought forward to take effect before meters have been fitted to all of the country’s houses, Pat Rabbitte has admitted.
Rabbitte, the minister for communications, energy and natural resources, told the Sunday Times that though the programme for government committed the Fine Gael-Labour coalition to water charges only when meters had been fitted across the country, the ongoing precarious state of the country’s finances meant the plan could be advanced.
“The position hasn’t changed from what’s in the Programme for Government, as of now, but we have to look at all of that as things develop,” Rabbitte told Sarah McInerney.
“We have the monitoring of our performance under the Memorandum of Understanding, but we also have parallel developments in the eurozone and our own need for fiscal correction to narrow the gap between revenues and expenditure.”
Rabbitte added that the economic situation facing the new government was much more serious than what it had anticipated before taking office.
Rabbitte’s comments come less than a fortnight after the junior minister in Rabbitte’s department, NewERA minister Fergus O’Dowd, told the Dáil that the introduction of the charges could still be “years away”.
O’Dowd told the Dáil on April 6 that the proposal for water charges would have to be first put to an independent body which would assess the feasibility of the scheme, and only when that body had approved it would meters be fitted to the country’s homes.
The sheer volume of houses in the country could mean it would take up to three years for meters to be fitted – a move which in itself could cost around €500m.
Read more on Rabbitte’s plans in the Sunday Times >