Bin charges to be frozen for all customers until 2017

Agency says ‘nobody disposing same quantities of waste will face additional charges’

Simon Coveney arrives at a meeting with waste industry representatives in Tallaght, Co Dublin. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Simon Coveney arrives at a meeting with waste industry representatives in Tallaght, Co Dublin. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Bin charges are to be frozen for all customers for 12 months after the Government agreed a deal with waste management companies on Tuesday.

The Irish Waste Management Association, The City Bin Co and Greyhound have agreed to freeze charges until June 2017.

The City Bin Co, who along with Greyhound were initially not included in the deal, said in a statement: “We welcome the Government’s proposal today on pay-by-weight and are in agreement with the 12-month price freeze whereby our customers will remain on their current price plans.”

Greyhound Household also released a statement saying it supported the new measures for the waste industry as outlined by the Government.

In a statement, the Irish Waste Management Association said it had given a commitment that “no householder disposing the same quantities of waste will face any additional charges during the first 12 months of pay by weight.”

Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government Simon Coveney said the plan announced on Tuesday morning was “a comprehensive one which will protect households from increased charges and ensure that the introduction of pay by weight can happen in a way that builds acceptance and understanding of the benefits of pay-by-weight over time”.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said it is time to examine how the management of waste is dealt with.

He told the Dáil on Tuesday the spirit of the legislation dealing with bin charges related to how charges could be reduced.

“In other words, consumers or customers would have the option to examine carefully and think about how they would dispose of their waste in terms of green, brown and black bins and, on a pay-by-weight basis, charges could be reduced,’’ he added.

Clearly, said Mr Kenny, that was not going to happen, which was why Mr Coveney had met the waste management companies.

The move to pay-by-weight was announced by then minister for the environment Alan Kelly last year and the industry claimed about 87 per cent of households would pay less as a result.

However, there had been anecdotal evidence of some companies imposing steep increases in standing charges.

The Waste Management Association also said the transition period would allow householders to do a cost comparison between their current price and what they would pay if the pay-by-weight system had been introduced.

“It will help householders better understand how waste charges are calculated. They will be able to see how recycling more can reduce their annual charges.”

The association also asserted it expected the Government to launch a nationwide information campaign on recycling and the rationale behind the pay-by-weight system.

The association also confirmed it had committed to giving allowances to households where an incontinent adult was under care, and where incontinence nappies were being disposed.

This concession will benefit up to 60,000 households, according to sources.

A statement from the Department of Environment said at the end of this 12-month freeze on charges, the Government would review the operation of pay-by-weight, including the effectiveness of the transition process, and make decisions regarding its further roll-out, regulation and oversight of the sector

On Monday night Mr Coveney said the Government was considering setting up a regulator for the domestic waste management sector.

Source: Irish Times

Irish Water to get €660m bailout

Irish Water will get a €660m bailout this year but a decision to suspend water charges could have “big consequences” for funding other services next year, warns Housing Minister Simon Coveney.

by Juno McEnroe, Irish Examiner

His suggestion was backed by Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe who said funding for Irish Water would compete with other demands such as housing.

The pre-budget cautions put Fine Gael directly at odds with Fianna Fáil, which wants water charges suspended indefinitely. Taoiseach Enda Kenny yesterday accused Fianna Fáil of a “reversal to old-school populism” in insisting water charges not be reintroduced.

Funding for Irish Water is being considered by a commission on water charges, due to report in November.

Mr Coveney said the 2017 position on funding for Irish Water is dependent on what the commission and a follow-up Dáil committee conclude.

It had been planned that the subvention, or bailout, for Irish Water would be €479m. Irish Water estimates its shortfall from water charges to be €181m for this year. This brings the total subvention needed for Irish Water this year to €660m, Mr Coveney told the Oireachtas housing committee.

The €181m shortfall will be plugged by the €110m that was to go to the water conservation grant, a €58m loan to Irish Water, and another €13m still to be found.

Mr Coveney said the €110m from the conservation grant would not be there next year. “Let’s be honest about this, if the Oireachtas decides to do away with water charges, then we still need to progress and deliver on the significant capital expenditure programme that Irish Water needs to deliver on,” he said.

“That will have to come through other revenue raising and presumably general taxation, which then limits our ability to spend in other areas and also undermines the water conservation incentive that comes with having some link between what people pay and how much they use, never mind all the issues around water directives.”

Funding for Irish Water will be discussed when the commission reports and in the context of the budget, the committee was told.

Mr Coveney said: “But the choices we make have consequences, big consequences, because regardless of what way you cut it, we have to invest billions of euros over the next five years in water infrastructure and it has got to be paid for. The only question we have to decide is, do we pay for that through general taxation; do we pay for it through a combination of general taxation and direct charging that tries to incentivise conservation and water management; or do we go back to a previous charging system?”

He added: “There is a big cost if we decide not to have revenue stream coming from water provision to domestic houses. There are big consequences in terms of the flow of money in and out of government.”

Separately, Mr Coveney warned local authorities not to expect the Government to “pick up the tab” if they reduce property taxes next year. Some 16 councils cut rates last year and 11 had done so this year, he said.

The warning on water was also made by Mr Donohoe, when he told a separate committee about budget preparations. Water treatment coming directly from general taxation would “directly compete with other needs” including housing, he said.

Source: Irish Examiner, Sept 22, 2016

They All Must Go

by Paul Murphy July 5, 2016




“People voted a certain way, Leinster House is not prepared to grasp that particular nettle, so we have to find a solution that will have enough sugar on it to make the medicine go down easily.”  Joe O’Toole on Newstalk Breakfast, June 30, 2016


Govenment's Expert Commission on Domestic Water Services

Gritta Nottelman

Gritta Nottelman

Brendan Mahony

Brendan Mahony

Joe O'Toole Chairman

Joe O'Toole Chairman

Bill Emery

Bill Emery

Peter Peacock

Peter Peacock

Sarah Hendry

Sarah Hendry

Xavier Leflaive

Xavier Leflaive

Andrew Kelly

Andrew Kelly



Chairman quits after only a week under pressure

Joe O’Toole has been forced to resign as chair of the supposedly neutral expert commission not because he believed its job was to add enough sugar to make water charges, but because he gave the game away.

In his resignation statement, he declared:

“I am comfortable with the fact that I put my views honestly and transparently on the record. It is regrettable that my straight-talking has caused difficulties for others but in that regard I am unlikely to change anytime soon.”

Kevin Duffy

Kevin Duffy

Update: Joe O'Toole resigned July 6th and was replaced by Kevin Duffy, former chairman of the Labour Court.  Those in the Luas dispute will have first hand knowledge of Mr Duffy. 

He was appointed Chairman of the Labour Court in December 2003, having served as Deputy Chairman since 1997. Prior to that he was Assistant General Secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions since 1988, with responsibility for industrial relations and trade union organisation.  Before taking up the position of Assistant General Secretary of the ICTU, Kevin was General Secretary of the Ancient Guild of Incorporated Brick and Stonelayers’ and Allied Trades Union (now part of the Building and Allied Trades Union).  He has been a member of the Labour Relations Commission, the Civil Service Arbitration Board and the Board of FÁS.  Industrial Relations Research Trust


Oldest trick in book

Anybody who pays attention to politics will know that the establishment of ‘independent’ commissions to look into things is the oldest trick in the book. The aim is usually to take heat out of an issue in order to be able to return later to it.

The issue of the expert commission on water charges is no different. The government has faced a mass movement of opposition against water charges, with significant protests and  a mass boycott.  This opposition was reflected in the general election.  The result is a Dáil where about 70% of TDs have a mandate to end water charges and abolish Irish Water.

Yet, Fine Gael in particular remains committed to bringing water charges back and Fianna Fáil is far from committed to really oppose them.

So between them, they agreed the suspension of water charges and the establishment of a water commission to ‘look into the issue.  This Commission, as Joe O’Toole let slip, has a predetermined outcome.  This will be some form of water charges.  The ‘experts’ will have spoken and we will be told by large sections of the media that it is deeply irresponsible not to go along with water charges.

Who are those experts?

Well many of them are connected to water privatisation. That includes

Xavier Leflaive of the OECD who has previously written that. “Water pricing can be used to signal scarcity and to create incentives for efficient water use in all sectors (e.g. agriculture, industry, domestic)”,

Dr Andrew Kelly; founder and executive director of EnvEcon.

Peter Peacock; chair of the Customer Forum for Water Scotland

Gritta Nottelman;  who works for a private Dutch water company.

Brendan O'Mahony; Chairman of the National Federation of Group Water Schemes.  Former chairman of of IFI;   Works closely with Irish Water and Government

Bill Emery; chair of Northern Ireland Utility Regulator. Also currently non-executive chair of the Centre on Regulation in Europe (CERRE),

Sarah Hendry; a lawyer specialising in water and environmental law, University of Dundee, Scotland

This elevation of supposedly neutral experts is of course a part of the technocratisation of politics, what Peter Mair described as the “hollowing of western democracy”.

We have had a thorough debate on water charges over the past years. People engaged in street meetings, in mass protests, in campaigning organisations.  They then spoke decisively, in protest, in a majority of people boycotting and in the general election.

The problem the government has is that they spoke the wrong way and therefore a way has to be found around them.

Right2Water has agreed a further major national protest on Saturday,  September 17. This will be an opportunity for a renewed call for the attempts to subvert the wishes of people to end.

The so-called expert commission should go. The bullying from the European Commission should not be heeded.

The Dáil should simply act to abolish water charges and Irish Water and provide for the necessary substantial investment in water infrastructure paid for through progressive taxation.

Paul Murphy is a TD Anti Austerity Alliance. Follow Paul on Twitter:

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