SF TD says move to transfer commercial water charges to utility is ‘underhanded’
The Government has been accused of being “underhanded” in moving the payment of commercial water charges from local authorities to Irish Water.
Sinn Féin TD Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said that in a pilot project, billing for commercial, non-domestic water charges in counties Monaghan and Meath was being moved from the two local authorities to Irish Water.
The Cavan-Monaghan TD said “it beggars belief” that a decision had been made to transfer such responsibility to Irish Water while the newly appointed water charges commission was starting work on “addressing the future of domestic water charges and the future of Irish Water itself”.
He claimed it was an “inappropriate and underhanded move at this time, especially in light of the Government’s decision to suspend the accruing charges for domestic water provision”.
Minister of State Damien English, whose Meath West constituency is also covered by the billing move, said the legislation to suspend charges was for domestic water charges only.
“It is very clear that Irish Water is here to say,” he said. “There is no question over how public water and wastewater services are to be delivered into the future.”
He stressed the approach had been accepted that “Irish Water will remain our national water utility”.
Mr Ó Caoláin said “Fianna Fáil has clearly rolled back on its position and the Minister is clearly indicating that the future of the Irish Water entity is guaranteed into perpetuity”.
Mr English said the Bill to suspend domestic water charges “does not provide for any changes to the current water charging regime for non-domestic customers”.
He said the move to Irish Water would improve the situation because there was a variance across the State in how non-domestic customers are billed, “both in tariff type and level of tariff”.
Mr English said “there are 44 tariff structures, with over 500 tariff points in place for non-domestic water and wastewater services”.
He added that “the harmonisation of non-domestic tariffs should lead to greater certainty and simplicity for businesses and other non-domestic customers about the structure and level of charges”.
Original article: Marie O'Halloran, Irish Times, July 14, 2016