Kelly seeks review of bonus system

Environment Minister Alan Kelly will ask the new board of Irish Water overseeing water charges to review the system of pay bonuses staff are set to receive next year.

The Labour minister last night said that he was expecting “major changes” in how Irish Water operates and communicates with the public.

His comments came as Fianna Fáil warned the Government during a Dáil debate that it was potentially walking blindly into a sooner-than-expected general election because of recent controversies surrounding Irish Water.

Environment party spokesman Barry Cowen accused the Coalition of setting up “a gold-plated bonus-driven super quango”. But Mr Kelly defended the Government’s actions. While not outlining what specific changes would be made, he said he was expecting “a reinvigoration in customer focus” and for Irish Water to build a “much stronger relationship with the public”.

Irish Water’s board will be disbanded next month and a new one amalgamated with Ervia, the parent company.

Mr Kelly said he understood the pay model for Irish Water workers — which will reward them with bonuses between 9% and 19% — was the subject of much comment.

“One of the first actions I will be asking the new board to do will be to review the application and operation of this model in Irish Water, particularly in its start-up phase.”

It was also his “personal view” that proposed call out charges of €188 to fix leaks were “too expensive”.

Mr Kelly also added: “The question has been put to me over the last few days about confidence in the senior management of Irish Water. I will be demanding that they deliver. The Government will take a hands-on approach and reposition Irish Water in the public minds and I expect this to happen quickly.”

But Fianna Fáil called for “an equitable regime that has at its core an ability to pay” for water charges.

Sean Fleming TD said he was aware of “pallet loads of forms” that were not filled and returned by households to post offices nationwide.

Willie O’Dea TD said he would not be submitting his PPS number to Irish Water, that he would not pay the allowance he was entitled to, and that “they [Irish Water] can all come after me if they wish”.

Independent TD Paul Murphy said the communications problem was with the Coalition, not Irish Water: “Working people don’t want these water charges.”

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