Irish Water rows back on allowance for children

Irish Water wants to reduce the amount of free water children will get in homes in a move which would land families with higher bills once charges begin.

However, Taoiseach Enda Kenny yesterday told the Dáil that every child would be “free” and not incur water charges.

The confusion over the pending charges and lack of detail from Irish Water prompted one TD to declare the situation a “fiasco”.

Initial data from water meters in some homes has prompted Irish Water to ask the regulator if the free allowance can be reduced.

The company must come back with hard data before final charges and allowances are approved by the energy regulator in September.

Paul McGowan, the commissioner for energy regulation, said Irish Water wants the 38,000-litre allowance per child reduced as it “did not reflect the actual usage” that will occur, TDs at the Oireachtas Committee on Environment heard yesterday.

TDs were told by the regulator’s office that if the free allowance was “over-inflated” for children, those without children would have to pay more than they should.

Independent TD Ruth Coppinger warned that consumers might now end up paying more than the average €240 per home which has been pledged by the Coalition.

The 38,000-litre allowance per child had been “thrown off course” and families may now have higher bills, she said.

The regulator also told TDs that it had yet to receive a list of medical conditions that would result in a free allowance for some users.

Health Minister James Reilly and Environment Minister Phil Hogan had yet to agree the list, TDs heard.

The energy regulator said it expected to receive Irish Water’s plans for tariffs today.

However, the company’s delayed report was described as a “fiasco”, by committee chairman Barry Cowen.

Assessed charges would apply for up to one million homes before they had meters installed, TDs heard. The regulator said Irish Water was going to ask residences to give a self-assessment on the number and age of its occupants so estimates could be decided.


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