€420k car perk for water bosses

Senior managers in Irish Water will get €420,000 for car allowances this year as the number of staff getting premium benefits continues to grow.

The Irish Examiner can confirm the number of managers getting the annual €10,500 car allowance has risen by 50% since January.

Some 40 senior managers will now get the annual payment, Irish Water said.

It was also announced yesterday that households will not have to pay their first water bills until next February after the deadline for registering for charges was put back by a month.

However, despite public outrage over staff bonuses, Irish Water is paying even more perks for its managers.

It confirmed 27 managers were receiving the car allowance in January but the numbers getting it had risen as it hired more staff.

Irish Water has faced criticism over revelations that managers next year who earn a “need improvement” rating will get an extra 9% payment alongside their mid-€90,000 salaries.

In a statement, it said that senior managers were given a special contribution towards health insurance, but it would not say how much or how many staff were entitled to the benefit. It said the car allowance was paid to managers who used their own cars in the course of their duties and that the allowance was fully taxable.

Meanwhile, the energy regulator has agreed to a request by Irish Water to push the validation period for households officially back until the end of November.

This means that people’s first water bills will begin arriving through doors on January 26 next year, as opposed to immediately after Christmas. People then have 14 days to pay.

Independent TD Clare Daly said the change would further “embolden” people not to pay.

She said she would not pay the charge and would get a plumber to fix water pressure at her home if Irish Water reduced it.

“Sometimes bad laws have to be broken,” she said.

Irish Water said last night that 747,000 of the 1.5m homes set for charges had responded to it so far. Two thirds of people are returning applications by post.

The first bills will include people’s entitlement to the household and child-free allowances. Further allowances through welfare payments will also be in place when bills go out.

However, Fianna Fáil claimed last night that households may not get the full benefit of a separate tax credit for water charges until December 2016, according to details from parliamentary replies.

Ministers will discuss how to further ease charges for households including the option of extending the assessed charge period beyond next summer. This would mean the whole country would pay a flat rate for a longer period until more meters are installed. A special discount for homes with dependent adult children is also being assessed.

Independent senator Feargal Quinn also said he would introduce a bill in the Upper House when it returns which would propose removing the power of Irish Water to request people to provide their personal public service numbers.

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