Fianna Fáil urges fairer water charges

Fianna Fáil has said fairer water charges should be introduced for households, and if in power, it would look at reducing costs for homeowners.

The claims come as Taoiseach Enda Kenny said that 80% of all bills would be less than €24 per month.

But as charging begins today, the Anti-Austerity Alliance said calculations for water usage had under-estimated the amount a person would use.

Sinn Féin also reiterated its pledge to reverse charges if it was elected to government.

The reaction from opposition parties came after the energy regulator announced rates for water bills for the next two years.

Fianna Fáil environment spokesman Barry Cowen said it was confirmed Irish Water customers would end up paying consultancy fees and other set-up costs of €180m through the charge system. Concessions for thousands of households on boil notices did not go far enough, he added.

He said families should not have to pay for waste water as well as the general water supply until dirty supplies were fixed.

Asked if Fianna Fáil would reduce charges if elected to power, he responded: “Fianna Fáil would look at a more fair and equitable way to charge, and would place a greater emphasis on the repair in the network.”

He said one of the issues the party would look at was reducing the basic rate for households.

The Anti-Austerity Alliance claimed families would face bills far in excess of the assessed charge in place for the first nine months for households. A four-adult household would face a bill of €908 per year, not the €483 claimed, said Socialist TD Joe Higgins.

Sinn Féin reiterated its pledge to abolish charges, if in power.

But Mr Kenny said that such a move would leave a €850m gap in the State’s finances.

Independent Kildare North TD Catherine Murphy, who said demands for PPS numbers were an invasion of privacy, said Irish Water’s aim was to “turn citizens into customers”, with people now feeling like they were “living in a dictatorship”.

Ms Murphy expressed concern that the personal details of children were also being demanded by Irish Water, as she accused the Government of preparing to privatise the utility.

Mr Kenny said the aim was to make water-charging as fair as possible and that the average bill would be less than €240, and that 80% of all bills would be less than €24 per month.

“The person who lives alone will pay less than 50 cent per day,” Mr Kenny said.

The Taoiseach said that data protection legislation ensured PPS numbers could not be misused.

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