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Dublin: 9°C Wednesday 20 October 2021

Water charges waiver system proposed for low-income households

A joint Oireachtas committee report has also recommended that Irish Water, the new State body, should remain in public ownsership.

A REPORT ON Ireland’s water provision by the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Environment, Transport, Culture and the Gaeltacht has recommended that the water charge should be waived for low-income households.

The proposed waiver system would be along the lines of the existing fuel allowance/household benefit package scheme.

It’s recommended that it should take into account the age profile of residents and medical conditions and disabilities which may result in increased water usage, along with combined household income. The report recommends that waivers may be either fully or partially granted.

The report also recommends that Irish Water, the new State body with responsibility for water services, should remain in public ownership. Irish Water will operate as a subsidiary of Bord Gáis.

Concerns have been raised by unions about job losses resulting from the transfer of services from local authorities to Irish Water, but Bord Gáis has said that until an implementation plan is finalised staffing issues cannot be addressed.

The Oireachtas committee report does recommend reflecting “the need to employ apprentices struggling to find the opportunity to complete their training”. Those on the JobBridge programme are also mentioned in the report.

It’s prosed that the ownership and maintenance of water meters should be the sole responsibility of Irish Water, and that meters should be ‘future proofed’ and have the facility to link in with SMART meters, remote access and other applications.

Other recommendations and findings include:

  • One national tariff for water, as with other utilities, rather than a tariff system based on river basins.
  • Metering is the “fairest way to charge for water”.
  • The Government must play its part in reducing leakage, and must set  regional mandatory maximum leakage rates for the new Irish water utility.
  • All profits should be reinvested to generate a sustainable clean water supply and waste infrastructure.
  • The branding of Irish Water should be the quality of service it delivers. Any costs of branding the new utility must be kept to a minimum.

Chambers Ireland has said that action must be taken quickly on the recommendations made in the report.

Deputy chief executive Seán Murphy said that Chambers Ireland was disappointed with the proposed waiver system for low income households, saying:

Low income households should be supported by the Department of Social Protection in line with the current system for other utility charges.

Read the Joint Oireachtas Committee’s report on water provision>

Bord Gais says Irish Water plan won’t come until at least mid-July>

About the author:

Emer McLysaght

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