The Coalition have set a new deadline for water charges and said all homes must register by the end of June or they will be denied the €100 grant towards bills.
The announcement was made after Taoiseach Enda Kenny yesterday stood over new compliance measures being considered to force people to pay charges.
Measures being considered include deducting people’s wages or their dole.
The radical options — similar to how property tax compliance measures work — will be discussed in the coming weeks but questions remain as to why Irish Water will get special powers above other utility companies billing for energy or services.
Mr Kenny said plans would go to Cabinet “shortly”. He said 1.23m people had signed up to Irish Water but 250,000 of these, though not customers, would qualify for the grant to pay charges.
“For those who decide that they will not pay, they are not being fair to those who understand that water is a precious commodity.”
Government sources say the issue of asking landlords to deduct amounts from tenants and the option of deducting wages or welfare are being ironed out. Options will be decided in the coming weeks but compliance measures are unlikely to be introduced until after the next election.
Labour said “significant discussions” with the Attorney General were under way while Mr Kenny’s spokesman said: “People’s water won’t be cut off, that’s why there’s a need for compliance.”
During a Dáil debate last night, Dublin TD Ruth Coppinger spoke of an 80-year-old social housing tenant who was told to give his details or face losing his home.
Paul Murphy TD said the new measures signed a “death warrant” for Labour.
Labour TDs privately indicated they were “in the dark” about the proposed measures and insisted that nothing had been agreed.
Last chance for government as debate on #AAA motion calling for abolition of water charges about to start.— Paul Murphy (@paulmurphy_TD) March 24, 2015
But Mr Kelly went further last night and revealed another deadline has been set.
“I can confirm this evening that the 30th of June 2015 will be the deadline for registering with Irish Water in order to be eligible for receipt of the water conservation grant this year. If a household has not registered by this date, it will not be able to receive this €100 grant from the Department of Social Protection from September 2015.”
He said major work was needed on services or Dublin businesses in future could lose €400m in just one week through shortages.
He also pointed out that 20% of people had already been paying for water for years under schemes.
The opposition says the fact that no penalties will apply until July 2016 shows the Government is not confident in its approach. TDs also point out that those on the lowest wages will pay the same amount as millionaires. But Mr Kelly rejected their arguments last night.
“The suggestion in the technical group’s motion [tonight] that we abolish Irish Water and water charges will do nothing to help the 940,000 people who depend on water treatment plants that are at risk of not meeting required standards. Neither will they improve the lives of those in 44 urban areas throughout the country who live with the reality of untreated sewage being discharged into local water bodies.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved