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Coveney set to freeze bin charges for 12 months

The environment minister held discussions with Ireland’s waste companies today.

File Photo Bin charges treble for customers as companies accused of operating a cartel. MINISTER FOR THE Environment will bring in legislation if private companies are found to be abusing the new pay by weight system by hiking up prices for customers.

Updated 20.24

MINISTER FOR THE Environment Simon Coveney appears set to freeze bin charges for at least the next 12 months in an attempt to draw a line under the current bin charges controversy.

Speaking to RTÉ News this evening after a day in which he spoke with representatives of some of Ireland’s waste companies, Coveney said it was important, as Ireland moves to a new pay-by-weight household waste system, that “while we’re in transition that people get the time and space to adjust to that”.

“That’s why I have asked the industry to support me in ensuring that nobody pays more next year than this year,” Coveney said.

We want to move to reassure people that nobody is going to get ripped off during the move from the current system to a pay by weight structure.

Last week, the issue of price hikes was raised by a number of TDs in the Dáil, with some members saying the waste collection companies were operating “a cartel”.

Bin charges have risen by 200% for some customers ahead of the new pay-by-weight system that is due to kick in on 1 July.

“We want a 12-month period whereby households will get used to the new system,” said Coveney.

He said that if waste companies don’t agree to his suggestion then it could be enforced by the enactment of “either primary or secondary legislation”.

The minister added that once the new package regarding charges is in place he would be reaching out to all political parties in the hope of achieving a “shared objective” of introducing a pay-by-weight system “that makes sense for everyone”.

Earlier

Today’s discussion followed on from Coveney’s meeting in Athlone last week, where he met representatives from some of the bigger waste operators, including Panda Waste, Greyhound, CityBin and Clean Ireland.

The new system was the former Environment Minister Alan Kelly’s baby, aimed at making people more aware of their waste and to encourage recycling.

However, just a few weeks before the system came online, a number of companies increased the yearly standing charges. Some prices went from €50 per year being replaced with weekly service fees of €2 or €3.

20/10/2015 Cabinet Meetings Source: Photocall Ireland

Price hikes 

Kelly said on Friday he did not envisage price hikes under the new system and claimed he had “made it perfectly clear” to waste companies that if they tried to exploit the situation in this way, the Statutory Instrument (used to bring in the pay-per-weight system) would be revised “to force their hands”.

The Tipperary deputy called on the current minister to respond appropriately by restricting the standing charge a company can impose.

Following concerns being raised in public, the competition watchdog, the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) has stepped in and launched an investigation into the sector.

Freezing charges

Minister Coveney is expected to make his plans known tomorrow after he gets approval from Cabinet on the best way forward.

It’s believed he plans to freeze bin charges in an attempt to prevent another utility disaster.

File Photo Bin charges treble for customers as companies accused of operating a cartel. MINISTER FOR THE Environment will bring in legislation if private companies are found to be abusing the new pay by weight system by hiking up prices for customers. Source: Laura Hutton

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, the Minister for Social Protection, Leo Varadkar said some waste companies are trying to “take advantage of this new system to hike the charges”.

That is not something we are going to allow.

However, the question remains - can the government stop private companies from hiking up the charges?

While Varadkar said he did not want to pre-empt Minister Coveney’s announcement tomorrow, he said the government did have options open to them.

“There are things that can be done. The minister can make new regulations, potentially they could cap charges,” said Varadkar.

People should pay for the waste they produce but the charges have to be fair.

Meanwhile, two opposition parties have their own plans to tackle the rising cost of bin charges.

An AAA-PBP private members’ motion will come before the Dáil tomorrow calling for an immediate ministerial order to prevent companies increasing charges.

Sinn Féin will has a separate motion to get rid of charges in the Seanad on Wednesday.

Deputy party leader Mary Lou McDonald said an ultimatum should be given to the waste companies - reduce the standing charges or he will bring in new legislation. 

There has been speculation that any new legislation or regulations introduced by government will most likely be appealed to the courts.

Additional reporting Cianan Brennan

Originally published 10.29am

Read: Alan Kelly: ‘I never envisaged the dramatic increase in bin charges’

Read: Bin charges treble for customers as companies accused of operating ‘a cartel’

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