New bin fees hit home
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