By Elaine LoughlinPolitical Reporter
By Eoin EnglishIrish Examiner Reporter
The Government wants to introduce a mandatory cap on bin charges and has sought legal advice to clarify if it has to power to do so.
The mandatory introduction of pay by weight bin charges will be deferred by a year.
Environment Minister Simon Coveney was still finalising a deal with bin companies last night, however it is expected that a pay freeze will be agreed upon when it comes before Cabinet this morning.
Mr Coveney is bringing secondary legislation to Cabinet to push the mandatory introduction back by 12 months, however people will also be given the option of paying by weight in six months’ time.
Under the deal being hammered out last night bin companies will maintain a price freeze for the next 12 months, which will be based on households’ last bill.
However, from July 1 people will receive a dual price bill giving them the cost of refuse collection under the pay by weight system.
Although Mr Coveney is hopeful that all refuse companies will agree to the price freeze, last night he warned that if there is any evidence of this agreement being breached then he would introduce primary legislation to enforce this.
Earlier, at South Dublin County Council offices ahead of a council meeting yesterday afternoon, Mr Coveney said his job is to ensure the new system is not abused or used as a way of raising charges.
“That’s why I have asked the industry to agree to a cap on charges, so that we can reassure people that nobody would pay more next year than they would this year...and during that period would create an acceptance of a new system.”
He said there is a lack of trust in the new system and there is a need to reassure people.
“I think we can do that by requiring that a cap be put in place, but it is not as straight forward as that, because there are legalities there that we need to get through. We are not simply going to ask the industry on a voluntary basis to to this.
“I want to be sure that what we ask for is actually followed through on and, from that perspective, I have to take a little bit more advice from the Attorney General’s office.”
However, Wiser Group managing director Dermot O’Brien, a co-founder of the Irish Waste Management Association (IWMA), broke ranks with the association to oppose the new pricing structure.
He accused the Government of “interfering” in the industry to a point where operators like him “are losing control of their private businesses”. He said he has taken legal advice and was prepared to go further and would look to share the costs of a legal challenge with other operators if needed.
He said the new pricing regime will threaten the viability of the industry and could force several smaller operators out of business.
“The cost of picking a bin for Wiser in Ballydehob in West Cork is not the same as the cost of picking a bin in Ballymun,” he said.
“There have to be variables. The cap is not going to work. I want to know what the capped price will be and I want to know will they cap our fuel costs, our insurance costs, our maintenance costs, or our financing costs?
“We’ve done good by our customers for years. We have seen increased operating costs, but my company hasn’t increased our prices to our customers in a decade. So, my message to the Government is hands off the business. We, in the industry, have done a good job.
“We’ve reached, and in some cases, exceeded all the recycling targets set for us.”
Mr O’Brien, whose firm collects waste from around 30,000 domestic customers in Cork city and county, feel Mr Coveney has been ill-advised. He said several waste management companies also have concerns that householders will, to avoid pay-by-weight charges, begin dumping residual waste in the ‘free’ recycling bins. He said this will affect the quality of the recycled product waste management firms produce, affecting the price they achieve, and therefore threatening the viability of the industry.
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