Sustainable Water Network - Water Charges are back in the news.


Water charges are back in the news because the independent Expert Commission established to ‘assess and make recommendation upon the funding of domestic public water services in Ireland and improvements in water quality’ is due to submit its report to the Oireachtas next week.  Contrary to its position in September, Fianna Fáil were reported in the Irish Times early this week as saying that they ‘cannot rule out supporting the return of water charges if an independent expert commission proposes such a move’.  The Government has put a motion to the House today to establish a special Oireachtas committee tasked with examining how water services are to be funded, based on the report.  At time of writing, a stormy debate is taking place in the Dáil, with opposition unhappy that the government have already determined the Chair. If approved, the Committee will have 20 members, including five Government TDs, four Fianna Fáil TDs, two Sinn Féin TDs, five TDs from smaller groupings and four Senators and will report back to the Dáil and Seanad within 3 months, leading to vote in March. The details and politics of the process are well covered in this piece in Wednesday’s Irish Times.
Based on information in a leak to the press last weekend it would appear, according to RTE, that the Expert Commission are set to recommend a per- volume usage charge, with ‘a free water allowance for all households and a significant one for families’ resulting in a final charge which would, ‘in the words of one source, be "modest"’. 
The forcefully negative response from opposition parties is indicative of the utter breakdown of public trust on this divisive issue. Despite the high calibre and international experience and expertise of the members of the Expert Commission, it is regrettable that for those opposed to water charges, it doesn’t matter what they recommend, its work has been tainted by the manner of its establishment by the government and by the complete lack of meaningful engagement with the public on the water charges from the moment they were included in the Memorandum of Understanding with the Troika agreed almost 6 years ago tothe day on November 28th 2010.    

Source: Sustainable Water Network Newsletter, Nov 25