Watchdog may review children’s water allowance

The free water allowance for children will be changed if it does not match normal usage levels.

The Commission for Energy Regulation said it has received “additional assurances” from Irish Water about the research behind its decision to reduce the free allowance from 38,000 to 21,000 litres — which amounts to one, seven- minute shower and one toilet flush a day.

In response to those who participated in its public consultation, the regulator said it has asked the water company to provide reports every three months.

Where it finds that “the consumption estimates do not reflect normal consumption levels for adults and children” it will “review the allowances and tariffs”.

The Taoiseach yesterday accepted the cost of water for families with grown-up children is “a difficulty”.

He was responding to Dáil questions from Fianna Fáil leader, Micheál Martin, who said families with two children over 18 will face annual bills of nearly €500.

“We are talking here about dependent young people in full-time education or unemployed,” Mr Martin said. “Those families are being screwed by this regime.” His party is urging the Government to publish a “poverty analysis” which examines how the charges impact on low-income groups.

The existence of the document was revealed by former minister Fergus O’Dowd, who was responsible for establishing Irish Water, and who this week said the firm had “abjectly failed” in its approach to introducing charges.

Mr Martin said: “The fundamental aspect that is absent from the water rates regime that is being introduced via Irish Water and via the regulator, is the ability to pay principle.”

There is “absolutely no protection” for more than 370,000 people on the live register or workers below the poverty line.

The Taoiseach said the average charge per household will be 50c per day. Some 411,000 pensioners, carers, or people with a disability will get a €100 a year extra allowance in the household benefit package to meet water costs, he said.

“Of course, it is not easy on any category, in particular on the unemployed and those with families,” the Taoiseach said during leaders’ questions.

“Children who are over 18 are treated as adults if they stay or work at home. That is a difficulty but everybody must make a contribution and the Government has tried to make this as fair, equitable and affordable as possible.”

Meanwhile, it was claimed a “golden circle of individuals” is running Irish Water.

Independent TD, Catherine Murphy told the Dáil people who had “close relationships” with Irish Water boss, John Tierney, have been given senior positions in the water utility.

She said it was “also odd” that the Department of the Environment “turned down Siemens’ offer to foot the bill for water meter installation, choosing instead to opt for the far more expensive option offered by Siteserv, a company operated by the person who had the great fortune to obtain the second mobile licence in this country, Denis O’Brien”.


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