New water charging system described as 'thin edge of the wedge'

New water charging system described as 'thin edge of the wedge'
Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy will inform colleagues tomorrow of the new excessive charging system

A new water charging system which will affect tens of thousands of households has been described as the "thin edge of a wedge" to roll out metered charging in future years.

Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy will inform colleagues tomorrow of the new excessive charging system which will now not be introduced until 2020.

As reported by the Irish Examiner, the new system will see households given a year to adjust their water consumption or face fines, possibly up to €260.

Cabinet will discuss the plan, which has been postponed until next year in part because of fears of a public backlash from voters during the local and European elections in May.

The memorandum will effectively clear the way for the new system, allowing for public consultation before plans go before the Dáil in the autumn.

Under the system, households will get a letter advising occupants they are using more than the proposed 213,000 litres per residency a year. Homes will get a year to reduce down usage.

The average consumption calculated by TDs is 125,000L a year. The new threshold would see a levy kick-in when 1.7 times this allowance is used by a property.

A government source insisted the new system - which could see 80,000 households charged - was not designed to collect fines but to encourage people to change their consumption patterns.

Nonetheless, opposition TDs are opposed to the allowance-based rules with Sinn Fein housing spokesman Eoin O'Broin describing it "as the thin end of the wedge for the introduction of universal metered domestic water charges in future by this government or another one".

“The introduction of such a charge also gives the impression that Irish people are wilfully wasting water when the truth is that, according to Irish Water’s own figures, household water consumption in this state is one of the lowest in the OECD."

Solidarity-PBP TD Paul Murphy claimed the new system would be used by future governments to hike up charges.

“Clearly, any excessive usage charges would function as a Trojan Horse for the full re-introduction of charges. This is illustrated by the fact that the legislation allows the government to reduce the ‘normal usage’ allowance over time."

However, Fianna Fail's Darragh O'Brien defended the new charge system agreed with the Government, saying: "The most important thing to remember is that for the vast majority of households, water charges are dead and gone.”

Irish Water said it would use domestic meters, district metering and other technologies to measure consumption. Some estimates suggest 40% of homes are still not metered.

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