Claim 61% of households paying Irish Water charges rejected

Paul Murphy TD says figures show 928,000 people have paid at least some of their bill

Irish Water says 61 per cent of customers have paid their bill. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

Irish Water says 61 per cent of customers have paid their bill. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

Claims by Irish Water that 61 per cent of its customers were now paying water charges have been rejected by one of the TDs most prominent in the anti-water charges campaign.

The utility said on Thursday that 61 per cent of customers were now paying water charges at the end of the third billing cycle compared to 55 per cent at the end of the second cycle and 44 per cent at the end of the first billing cycle.

It said a total of 928,000 customers had now paid “part or all of their bills”.

This meant 98,000 customers had paid charges for the first time in the past three months, it said.

Irish Water said total revenue from charges paid to date by domestic customers was €110.8 million.

Revenue received during the third billing cycle was €42.3 million, an increase from €38 million in the second billing cycle and €30.5 million in the first billing cycle.

“Overall payment levels from bill cycle three therefore show both an increasing number of customers now paying water charges, and increased revenue received to help fund the repair and improvement of water services in Ireland, ” Irish Water said in a statement.

‘Major deficits’

It said it would spend €522 million to start to address the “major deficits” in the drinking water and wastewater quality and capacity and to repair the most critical infrastructure in need of urgent investment in 2016.

Some 100 treatment plants were upgraded or under construction last year and 319 contracts were signed for new projects to improve water supply and wastewater treatment around the country, it said.

It said 2,200 customer leaks were under its “first fix” scheme, saving 26 million litres of water every day - enough to supply the town of Mullingar.

Anti-Austerity Alliance TD Paul Murphy said the figures released by Irish Water did not confirm that 61 per cent of customers were now paying water charges.

“They simply provide the figure that 928,000 people have paid at least some of their bill. That figure is utterly worthless – because it includes those who paid the first bill and then joined non-payment, and those who paid the first and second bill and then joined non-payment,” Mr Murphy said.

“While Irish Water claims that 98,000 people paid bills for the first time in the third billing period, they don’t tell us how many who had previously paid stopped paying. Therefore, we simply don’t know whether the number who paid the third bill increased or decreased, or what percentage paid.”

Mr Murphy said Irish Water claimed to have received €110.8 million in total revenue.

“In the first billing quarter, they claimed to have a target of €66.8 million. Multiplying that by three (for three quarters) gives a figure of €200.4 million – which is the total that they should have raised in revenue.

“What they have in revenue, €110.8 million is only 55 per cent of their targeted revenue – not 61 per cent.”

Original article Elaine Edwards, Irish Times, Jan 14, 2016

Conservation Grant – Another Embarrassment for Irish Water and sign of continued opposition

Anti Austerity Alliance press conference on the latest facts and figures relating to the Irish Water 'Conservation Grant'.

Paul Murphy, TD, Ruth Coppinger, TD, Michael O'Brien, Cllr and Joe Higgins TD

Paul Murphy, TD, Ruth Coppinger, TD, Michael O'Brien, Cllr and Joe Higgins TD

"Despite ‘giving away €100 ‘ the number applying for the government's 'Conservation Grant' mirrors Irish Water charges payment rates.  Despite the spin, this signals that the boycott is still strong" ,according to AAA press statement.  "Irish Water should release the 2nd payment figures now rather than ‘bury the bad news during Budget week".

The Anti-Austerity Alliance has said that ‘another embarrassment’ looms for Irish Water after the Irish Times today revealed that less than half of households eligible for the free €100 Conservation Grant have applied for it. The Alliance said that the numbers applying mirrored the numbers who had paid the first bill, even though it was only based on those who had registered and excluded 400,000 who hadn't, and signals that opposition remained solid and called on Irish Water to release the payment figures this week rather than next week as they plan.

Cllr Michael O Brien

Cllr Michael O Brien

Councillor Michael O’Brien said “This is another PR stunt from Irish Water and the government that was an attempt to bribe people into acceptance of Irish Water that has backfired on them. You have a situation where Irish Water is now so hated, and opposition to the water charges is so strong that they literally cannot give away €100.

“This shows the level of continued opposition to Irish Water. The numbers who have applied for the grant roughly mirror the number of people who paid the first bill, however when you factor in that this figure excludes over 400,000 houses who haven't registered with Irish Water and includes people who are not eligible to pay water charges the figures read even worse for Irish Water. So despite there being no onus on people to pay the bill to claim the grant, the majority of people are refusing to even engage with Irish Water to claim a free €100 because they see it as a bribe.”

Cllr Mick Barry

Cllr Mick Barry

Councillor Mick Barry said “These figures are another huge embarrassment for Irish Water. It shows that despite their spin around payment figures, their PR campaigns and their scare tactics that a majority of people don’t trust this company and want nothing to do with it. They are even prepared to go as far as turn down a free €100.

“Irish Water’s second billing period is over and they are due to release the figures soon. Whether the numbers for the second bill show the boycott going up or down it will be bad news for the government and for Irish Water as they will show that there is still a strong and numerous boycott of the water charge. Irish Water must release the figures this week. They must not be allowed to hold back the figures till next week in an attempt bury the bad news during budget week."

Irish Water in Row with Councils over millions of euros in levies

Irish Water has been given powers to grab millions of euro from every local authority in the country to help fund upgrades of the network.

But the company and councils are still locked in negotiations over the value of funds to be transferred, despite months of talks.
The money was levied on builders in recent years to help provide water and wastewater services for housing, commercial and industrial developments.
Despite no longer having any role in building new treatment plants, the money remains within the control of councils.

The delay to recoup the cash, which should have transferred last Wednesday, comes as the first water bills begin arriving in people's homes.
More than 100,000 householders have been hit with demands for payment which will be used to fund day-to-day operations and to finance upgrades to water and wastewater treatment systems under an ambitious €1.8bn capital investment programme.
Among the reasons for the delay in transferring the money across include disputes over levies which have been charged but not paid, sources said.
There are also issues around the role that councils will have in collecting outstanding amounts, and what will happen where local authorities allowed developers to repay outstanding amounts over time, and as projects were completed.
The development comes after Environment Minister Alan Kelly signed a vesting order this week which transferred any money "received or due to be received" in development levies by the local authority to Irish Water.
The amounts involved are understood to be substantial - at the height of the boom in 2007, more than €900m was levied in development contributions. Between 2007 and 2008, some 37pc of all levies were used to fund water, wastewater and sewerage works, meaning it is a key source of revenue to help improve the network.
In a statement, Irish Water said it was not in a position to state the amount to be transferred.
"The due diligence exercise to determine the value of development levies received by local authorities that vest in Irish Water is ongoing," it said.
"Therefore, we are not in a position to state the value of development levies that will vest."

Catherine Murphy

Catherine Murphy

Independent TD Catherine Murphy said that levies had been a "critical source of revenue" to fund water upgrades in recent years, and that the delay was among a "long list of failures".
"It has been a critical source of revenue, this is a critically important fund," she said.
"This is on a long list of failures where there hasn't been any thought in terms of what it would take to get Irish Water up and running. I don't think Irish Water will get past the Eurostat test, and I think significant numbers won't pay and I don't think it will survive."
The issue of development levies is among a number of financial matters Irish Water is currently discussing the local authorities.
Another is the question of how much debt will transfer to the utility, money which was borrowed in recent years to fund water and wastewater treatment plants.
Development levies vary by each local authority, but in Dublin City a levy of €57 was charged for each square metre of residential development, falling to €46 per square metre of industrial or commercial building.
Since January last year, councils no longer charge a levy for water services, instead it is charged by Irish Water.

By Paul Melia