Leaked wa­ter charges cause havoc at cab­i­net

Bray People - - COMMENT -

AF­TER de­tails of the pro­posed wa­ter charges were leaked to the me­dia last week, Tá­naiste Ea­mon Gil­more had all the ap­pear­ance of be­ing hurt and up­set about im­por­tant State busi­ness be­ing “trawled in the me­dia” be­fore the Labour Party had a chance to get a word in at the Cab­i­net ta­ble.

This turned into a fully fledged row at Wed­nes­day’s Cab­i­net meet­ing where wa­ter charges were dis­cussed but, ac­cord­ing to one Fine Gael com­men­ta­tor, the Labour lads were just “spooked’ by the prospect of wa­ter charges af­fect­ing their chances” in the forth­com­ing lo­cal elec­tions.

It was de­scribed as the most se­ri­ous dis­agree­ment to date be­tween the coali­tion part­ners. That’s a hard call though. With as much bick­er­ing go­ing on be­tween the Govern­ment part­ners these days it’s dif­fi­cult to dis­tin­guish the se­ri­ous rows from the mere lovers’ tiffs.

Still it was clearly a case of the lit­tle guys get­ting the dirty end of the stick – stan­dard prac­tice in Ir­ish po­lit­i­cal part­ner­ships.

Of course the Labour mem­bers aren’t the only lit­tle guys get­ting picked on when it comes to wa­ter charges. Those with real cause to feel hurt, left in the dark and ex­cluded from the de­ci­sion mak­ing process are the house­hold­ers who will be forced to pay for wa­ter from next Jan­uary.

The ex­act charges haven’t been fi­nalised yet but it looks like house­hold­ers will pay an aver­age of €240 euro a year if their wa­ter con­sump­tion is me­tered. There will be a €50 euro a year stand­ing charge for hav­ing a wa­ter me­ter, which mir­rors the ESB’s stand­ing charge struc­ture.

That much is rea­son­ably clear but from there things start to get com­pli­cated.

By the time charges come into ef­fect only 400,000 of the 1.35 mil­lion house­holds in the State will have been fit­ted with wa­ter me­ters. How­ever, they won’t dodge the bills just be­cause Ir­ish Wa­ter couldn’t get the job done on time. In­stead they will be charged up to €70 a year more than the aver­age charge – the ex­act amount depend­ing on whether they live in a ter­raced, semide­tached or de­tached house.

Put sim­ply, this is a sys­tem that pe­nalises house­hold­ers for the fail­ure of the Govern­ment to en­sure wa­ter me­ters were fit­ted be­fore charges were levied. Bizarrely, it also means that a per­son liv­ing in Dublin 4 lux­ury, with wa­ter sprin­klers on the im­pec­ca­ble lawn, would ef­fec­tively pay less for wa­ter than a per­son liv­ing at the end of a coun­try boithrín.

It seems there will also be an ar­cane sys­tem of wa­ter al­lowances which will ba­si­cally give a cer­tain min­i­mal ra­tion of ‘free’ wa­ter, but struc­tured in such a way that chil­dren will have a higher al­lowance.

There are sound en­vi­ron­men­tal rea­sons for con­serv­ing wa­ter on a global level, but they have noth­ing to do with the Govern­ment strat­egy of charg­ing for wa­ter in a coun­try that en­joys a lav­ish abun­dance of rain­fall. What we’re look­ing at here, plain and sim­ple, is yet an­other stealth tax de­signed to squeeze an­other drop out of the na­tion’s parched tax­pay­ers.

No amount of spin will con­vince people other­wise so, yes, Labour Party lo­cal elec­tion can­di­dates have good rea­son to be ‘ spooked’. The only won­der would be if Fine Gael can­di­dates aren’t equally spooked. A poor grasp of re­al­ity per­haps?

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