Dedicated Irish Water helpline for politicians

Dedicated phonelines for Oireachtas members and councillors with concerns and queries from constituents about water charges will be set up next month.

Environment Minister Alan Kelly made the promise following a three-hour meeting with Irish Water managing director John Tierney.

He also said that every problem that has arisen with the new charging regime and the semi-state company itself had been discussed and would now be addressed.

His comments come ahead of a nationwide march against water charges on Saturday week and a series of recent controversies over the roll-out of the charges.

Speaking at Leinster House after the meeting, the Labour minister said: “It was a meeting I think is going to shape the future of Irish Water in the years to come. I raised every concern that has been brought to me across government circles over the last number of months.”

The two had discussed “absolutely everything,” he said, adding: “They [the company] are fully aware that every issue needs to be dealt with comprehensively and professionally, that Irish Water is to be a customer-facing company.”

The meeting came after a series of recent criticisms about the company, including plans to pay staff bonuses next year — even if they under-perform.

Mr Kelly said yesterday that he would tell a new board, which will unite Irish Water and its parent company, Ervia, to deal with the issue of bonuses.

A bonus culture “should not exist,” he stated.

He said there would be “massive changes” the week after next when TDs return from their holidays.

“There are going to be dedicated lines and dedicated customer servicing, not alone just for Oireachtas members but also for councillors around the country and all other stakeholders too.”

Following other revelations this week that Irish Water passed on tenant bank details to landlords, he said such mistakes were “unacceptable”.

“They need to manage customers in an improved way and I don’t expect to have a huge amount of these issues into the future.”

Speaking to the media for the first time since January, Mr Tierney said the meeting covered every issue.

“He [the minister] wants a new emphasis on all the issues to do with the customer.”

This was in relation to elected representatives contacting the company, he said.

He said nobody had asked him to step down in recent days, adding: “I’ve been up for the task since day one and I’ll be up for the task for the rest of my tenure.”

But Independent TD Catherine Murphy said during leaders’ questions in the Dáil that people’s concerns went beyond staff answering phones.

The Kildare TD said that the company’s request for PPS numbers from households for water charge allowances was essentially bullying and was infuriating people.

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