Water charges will not be known until August

Home-owners will not know how much they will be charged for water until August, according to the body which will set the fees, despite reassurances from the Taoiseach that the rates would be revealed before the May elections.

Energy regulator Paul McGowan, who will also regulate water charges, said an “indicative” costs would be published in June for public consultation and the final fees would be available two months later. Irish Water will make its submission by the end of this month after which the regulator will begin to consider the issue.

The regulator set out a timeline of how this would be done to the Oireachtas Environment Committee yesterday.

It will publish proposals in April “around the structure of water charges, without identifying the levels that will be charged”. This will include how house type, occupancy, and other issues around setting charges should be dealt with.

Asked by Labour’s Kevin Humphreys when households would know how much they can expect to pay from early 2015, Mr McGowan said: “That will be August. August will be the date by which we plan to publish our decision.”

However, less than an hour later, while the regulator was still being questioned by the committee, the Taoiseach told the Dáil there would not be a “play-out to allow this thing to happen beyond the local and European elections”.

Mr Kenny said: “The Government will bring in its business and financial model well in advance of the local and European elections. I’m not talking about 48 hours, it will be a couple of weeks beforehand.”

He denied suggestions the Government would be “afraid” to release what are likely to be very unpopular costs before the May 23 elections. “Far from it. The people will be well aware of what’s involved here,” he said.

The committee also heard that the regulator would examine whether people with poorer quality water should pay less. Cathy Mannion, director of the regulator’s energy retail and water division, said that while “we can’t presume the outcome of the consultation” she would “expect” customers “to pay somewhat less as the quality is not the same as elsewhere”.

Details were also revealed on the regulator’s spending on consultancy fees. Ms Mannion said it billed the Environment Department for €690,000 last year — €234,000 related to the introduction of water charges. The figure was expected to be no more than €1m this year.


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