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"Another U-turn?": People aren't too happy with the government's latest mooted Irish Water plan

It’s reported the €100 conservation grant will only be available to people who can prove they paid their bills.

Image: Shutterstock/Marcel Jancovic

Updated at 11.50am

THE GOVERNMENT’S LATEST mooted plans for Irish Water are coming in for criticism this morning, after reports the coalition plans to link the €100 water conservation grant with bill payment.

According to this morning’s Irish Times, it’s proposed the grant will only be available to people who actually pay their bills.

Under current rules a customer only has to register with the utility to qualify for the grant, which is administered by the Department of Social Protection.

It’s expected the changes won’t come into effect until next year at the earliest, as the payment for 2015 applies from next month.

Asked about the report this morning, transport minister Paschal Donohoe described it as speculation – but indicated changes were being considered.

He added that the structures currently in place at the Department of Social Protection would “be in place across this year”.

Speaking to Newstalk Breakfast, Donohoe said it was reasonable to look at what additional measures could be put in place to improve the efficiencies of the water charging system.

Joan Burton press conference Joan Burton Source: Niall Carson

Despite those indications from Donohoe, a statement from environment minister Alan Kelly’s department this morning said “there has been no change in the Government’s policy in relation to the water conservation grant and Minister Kelly will not be bringing proposals to Cabinet when it reconvenes”.

Responding to questions from TheJournal.ie on whether Social Protection Minister Joan Burton would be bringing new proposals to Cabinet, a spokesperson send the following statement:

“The Department of Social Protection is administering the Water Conservation Grant on behalf of the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government.

“Between now and September all householders who have registered their principal private residence with Irish Water by 30 June 2015 will receive a letter inviting them to apply for the Water Conservation Grant.

“The closing date for applications is 8 October 2015.

“The first payments are expected to issue to customers’ nominated bank accounts in mid-September.  All payments are expected to be made by the end of October.

“There has been no change to this process.

Criticism 

The government is coming under criticism for the latest apparent climbdown on Irish Water, on social media this morning.

Independent senator Gerard Cruaghwell has been amongst those commenting – describing it as a u-turn and noting that the ongoing controversy will result in losses for the government at the general election.

The grant

It was announced last November that every household in the country would be entitled to a €100 rebate from the Department of Social Protection if they signed up with the utility.

Decried by some opposition politicians as a ‘bribe’, the measure was one of several unveiled as part of the Government’s revised charging scheme, in the wake of a series of large-scale public protests against the proposed structure of water charges.

Answering parliamentary questions in June, Social Protection Minister Joan Burton confirmed it will cost some €6 million to administer the payment – on top of the €130 million being set aside by the Department of the Environment for the grants themselves.

Read: Joan needs new computers for the water grant… €630k more >

Read: Water charges: Government faces extra costs to pay for €100 household grant >

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