Irish Water collects less than half of water charges owed

Company takes in €30 million for first three months of 2015

Story by Fiach Kelly Irish Times

Edited by Fliuch

Irish Water has collected 46 per cent of all domestic water charge payments due to it for the first three months of billing, The Irish Times has learned.

[Other reports say 43% – Fliuch]

The semi-state company, which began billing people for water in January, will release the payment figures on Wednesday, Taoiseach Enda Kenny told the Dáil on Tuesday.

Sources said Irish Water calculated it should take in €271 million in a full year of operation, meaning it should collect €66.8 million in its first quarterly billing cycle of January, February and March – with bills sent out from April onwards. The money collected for the first three months stands at €30.5 million, or 46 per cent.

The figures for the first quarter include homes in ghost estates and up to 5 per cent of people Irish Water does not have addresses for and haven’t sent bills to.

The figures do not include non-domestic bills, such as businesses, schools and hospitals, which are running at around 90 per cent payment of all money due. However, non-domestic charges were already being paid before the introduction of domestic water charges.

The number of households that have paid is 675,000 out of 1.5 million, or around 43 per cent.

Sources claimed the percentage figure for money collected is more important because it reflects the levels of payments made.

The difference in percentage between the money collected and households that have paid is because of different amounts of money charged per bill, sources said.

“Every bill is different,” said one. It was also pointed out that the average time for someone to pay their water bill in the United Kingdom is three months.

The first cycles of bills also show 40 per cent of people paying through metered charges, rather than capped charges of €260 per two adult household and €160 per single adult households, beat the cap with lower water charges.

[There is almost no way a ‘normal’ household can ‘beat the cap’ so most of these homes are unoccupied – Fliuch]

Those who have registered with Irish Water will be able to claim the Government’s €100 conservation grant form later this year. An estimated 72 per cent of households have registered to date.

Registering with the company does not mean a householder has to pay their water charges, and they are entitled to claim the €100 grant even if they do not pay.

[Under the Environment (Miscellaneous) Bill it is not possible to receive the €100 unless you have paid the bill so this statement is wrong – Fliuch]

The bills from the second billing cycle of April, May and June are being sent out from this month. Reminders will also be sent from now on to houses which have not paid their bills.

Failure to make any payments over the first year of billing means a penalty sum of €30 for an one-person household and €60 for all other households will apply. Irish Water will also have the power to introduce attachment orders to deduct unpaid bills from wages and welfare.

[This statement needs to be qualified – you must be taken to court first and under the constitution you’re entitled to a case decided by a jury of your peers – Fliuch]

The company is also funded for 2015 to cover the lag time between people receiving their bills and paying their bills.

The Government established Irish Water as an independent entity to allow it to raise funds separately from the exchequer. However Eurostat, the EU statistical body, has to give the green light using a set of rules to determine whether Irish Water is independent of Government.

Sources said Eurostat rules related to the amount of money that is billed, rather than paid.

The Central Statistics Office has told Eurostat that Irish Water should be classified as being off the Government balance sheet and the European agency is due to make its final decision later this year.

A decision that all Irish Water’s investment should remain on balance sheet in the years ahead would restrict the room for manoeuvre in future budgets, as well as delivering a damaging political blow to the Government.