EC warns water charges a symbol of ‘austerity fatigue’

The imposition of water charges has become a symbol of “austerity fatigue”, the European Commission said as a war of words continued to rage over the levy.

EC warns water charges a symbol of ‘austerity fatigue’

Brussels waded into the controversy in its latest report on the aftermath of the bailout, stating that questions remained over the implementation the highly contentious utility charge.

The commission stated that water charges had become a a focus for “public discontent and austerity fatigue in general.”

However, the post-bailout survey noted that the charge was set to be capped at a “relatively low level” until 2018, with the Government moving to meet a significant proportion of the costs of Irish Water.

Sinn Féin’s Brian Stanley said the Government had engaged in “Alice In Wonderland economics” regarding Irish Water as he questioned whether EU financial watchdog Eurostat would rule it was able to attract loans to fix the nation’s infrastructure independent of Government.

“Only a total of €30m has been received so far in domestic charges,” said Mr Stanley. “When this is offset against the cost of the water conservation grant, which has been budgeted to cost €32m per quarter, the figures clearly illustrate that Irish Water is in deficit.

“That makes a mockery of the reason for establishing Irish Water as being to keep funding for water services off the state balance sheet.

“The facts are that Irish Water and this Government have heaped huge sums through subsidies and various accountancy tricks onto the taxpayer.

"For this year alone, that comes to a total of €810m. With operational costs reaching a staggering €900m, it becomes clear that this is an unsustainable economic model.”

Tánaiste Joan Burton said the 43% payment rate so far achieved by Irish Water would be improved upon as investment was needed to fix supply infrastructure.

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