New bin fees hit home

Irish Daily Mail - - News - By Jen­nifer Bray Deputy Po­lit­i­cal Ed­i­tor jen­nifer.bray@dai­ly­

400,000 cus­tomers af­fected by end of flat-rate re­newals as cor­re­spon­dence shows wor­ries of TDs and coun­cils

MORE than 400,000 home­own­ers around the coun­try will no longer be able to re­new their flat-rate bin con­tracts from to­day.

New pay-by-weight ar­range­ments were an­nounced by En­vi­ron­ment Min­is­ter De­nis Naugh­ten in late June. Th­ese bring to an end flat charges, whereby householders paid a set fee, ir­re­spec­tive of the amount of waste they dump.

The new rules have sparked con­tro­versy due to con­cerns that they will lead to sharp price in­creases in waste charges.

In par­tic­u­lar, many peo­ple in ru­ral Ire­land fear ‘price-goug­ing’, as they have fewer op­er­a­tors to choose from.

There have also been com­plaints that the public has not been given enough in­for­ma­tion.

Yes­ter­day, the Depart­ment of En­vi­ron­ment said most bin com­pa­nies’ per­mits had now been changed by the Na­tional Waste Col­lec­tion Per­mit Of­fice (NWCPO) to re­flect the fact that flat fees are no longer al­lowed. In­dus­try sources es­ti­mate that as many as 400,000 house­holds are cur­rently on a flat-rate plan.

How­ever one com­pany, Grey­hound in Dublin, said yes­ter­day that it was not aware of any changes but would no­tify cus­tomers a month in ad­vance if the pric­ing struc­ture was to change.

Mean­while, cor­re­spon­dence ob­tained by the Ir­ish Daily Mail re­veals that Mr Naugh­ten has re­ceived letters from min­is­te­rial col­leagues and county coun­cils around the coun­try, ex­press­ing con­cern about the new sys­tem.

Trans­port Min­is­ter Shane Ross wrote to him this sum­mer on be­half of a con­cerned con­stituent, say­ing pre­vi­ous changes had re­sulted in price in­creases.

Mr Ross wrote: ‘I ask you to im­press upon the con­sumer pro­tec­tion and the com­pe­ti­tion com­mis­sion the need for strin­gent mon­i­tor­ing to en­sure cus­tomers are treated fairly.’

The let­ter was sent on July 10, al­most two weeks af­ter the new bin charges regime had been an­nounced by the Gov­ern­ment.

Ac­cord­ing to the doc­u­ments, which were ob­tained by the Mail un­der Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion, Mr Naugh­ten was also con­tacted in Au­gust by Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter Richard Bru­ton who raised con­cerns about a 25% hike in one of his con­stituent’s an­nual bills.

Four coun­cils also wrote to Mr Naugh­ten, ex­press­ing se­ri­ous con­cerns about the plans.

On July 6, the Lord Mayor of Dublin wrote to Mr Naugh­ten, in­form­ing him that Dublin City Coun­cil had adopted a mo­tion call­ing on the min­is­ter to ‘stop th­ese new charges’.

Mr Naugh­ten re­sponded that new charges ap­plied by waste com­pa­nies ‘are mat­ters for those com­pa­nies and their cus­tomers’. In the same month, the min­is­ter also re­ceived cor­re­spon­dence from Kil­dare County Coun­cil, flag­ging the same con­cerns. He sent back the same let­ter.

On July 26, the min­is­ter re­ceived a let­ter from Done­gal County Coun­cil, which in­formed him that the coun­cil wanted ‘the new bin charges to be abol­ished, as th­ese place even more of a fi­nan­cial bur­den on house­holds’.

On July 13, Cork City Coun­cil wrote to the min­is­ter and asked him to look into the ‘fea­si­bil­ity of greater public own­er­ship’.

Mr Naugh­ten re­sponded and said that lo­cal au­thor­i­ties in­di­vid­u­ally made the de­ci­sion to exit the waste-col­lec­tion mar­ket and it was open to each lo­cal author­ity to re-en­ter the mar­ket on a com­mer­cial ba­sis if they so wished.

Sources have told the Mail that there is now con­cern that some bin com­pa­nies may ap­peal the new rules im­posed as part of their per­mit to the Dis­trict Court.

This would mean that they would not have to abide by the new rules un­til the case was re­solved. It is un­der­stood that at least one com­pany is con­sid­er­ing this op­tion.

‘Fi­nan­cial bur­den on house­holds’

Min­is­ter De­nis Naugh­ten

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