Water charge collections will net the exchequer just €40m this year after costs are deducted for billing customers and giving households rebates, it has been claimed.
The claim comes ahead of further marches in towns and cities this weekend before a deadline for households to register for the new charging regime on Monday.
Opposition party TDs yesterday expressed shock that despite a spend of over €500m on installing water meters nationwide, only tens of millions may be collected from charges this year.
During questioning in the Dáil, Environment Minister Alan Kelly said Irish Water expects billed income from domestic customers to total €271m this year.
He said the annual cost of the billing and customer services for domestic customers was around €22m.
On top of this, Mr Kelly said €130m of exchequer money had been made available for the water conservation grant or rebates for households this year.
However, only 1 million of 1.3 million households have so far returned registration packs. A small number of these have also returned packs, refusing to sign up.
Sinn Féin said the amount to be collected this year could, when the numbers of non-payers were also included, be just tens of millions of euro.
The party’s environment spokesman, Brian Stanley, said there was an estimated 30% non-compliance rate, based on the numbers signed up and those who had sent back registration packs.
“If those figures are correct and if we assume that at least 30% will not pay the charges, then the net figure from domestic charges will only be €40m or less in 2015. At that rate, it would take 19 years to recoup the costs of the installation of meters alone, apart from all the other costs accrued by Irish Water. This is voodoo economics.”
Mr Kelly strongly rejected the claim. He said it was difficult to calculate what the non-compliance rate might be by the end of the year.
“It is impossible to assess now, but similar to all other schemes, the property tax and everything else, we expect a very high compliance rate,” he said.
Furthermore, his officials maintain that the conservation grant/rebate for households and the costs for this are separate from Irish Water and will, in fact, be incurred by his own department.
Meanwhile, water charge protesters are set to march in Dublin, Cork, and elsewhere on Saturday.
Campaigners want charges abolished but the Government has revised levies so that households will pay a maximum €160 a year with rebates included.
Irish Water has also set a deadline of Monday for households to provide details and the number of occupants in homes for its database.
However, Mr Kelly said this week that families and homes could still register after the February 2 deadline, but that bills might need to be corrected.
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