Backlash deepens over water crisis18/04/2012 - 18:58:57
Backlash over planned water charges has deepened after campaigners warned of a one million strong household boycott.
As Taoiseach Enda Kenny was accused of sending mixed messages over threats to cut-off non-payers’ supplies, a mass of residents’ committees nationwide warned they would not pay.
Under pressure over the metering plan, the Taoiseach first said homes would be disconnected if bills were ignored before he attempted to row back on his words amid angry attacks from the opposition.
“It’s very important that people understand that good and careful and prudent use of water like that should not result in anybody getting into difficulty,” he said.
The Taoiseach was accused of muddying the waters over the new charges, due to come into effect in 2014 at the earliest.
It has been previously reported that the Government could allocate 40 litres of water per day free to each household. Any water used on top of that would be charged.
Sinn Fein deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald said: “The Government is so gung-ho in forcing out levy after levy that the Taoiseach doesn’t know what he’s telling people.”
Ms McDonald said his contradictions were just another example of the “confused fiasco” during the run-up to the introduction of the household charge.
And with no Government guidance on costs for water, the Association of Combined Residents’ Associations (Acra) warned its members would not pay any tax on the family home.
“Our members up and down the country are already pinned to the collar trying to survive,” said spokesman Malachy Steenson.
“We successfully made the household tax one of the biggest campaigns in recent decades. Water charges will be even more forcefully opposed.”
Households will be asked to pay water charges, as determined by meters that will be fitted outside the home with the occupier not required to grant access. There will also be an annual standing charge to cover the cost of supplies.
It is also expected each home will have to foot the bill over time for the forecasted €450m meter and installation costs with the Government working on the basis that it will be €800 or €39 or €40 a year.
John Lyons, Campaign Against Household and Water Taxes, said the fact that half the population had yet to register for the controversial household charge suggested the same people would protest against water.
“If they cut our water supply – this life giving force – there will be a hell of a lot of trouble,” Mr Lyons warned.
“I think we could see a million people marching against the Government over this.”
The Government has estimated that around 906,000 households have registered for the €100 euro household charge – of a total 1.6 million that are eligible.
Fianna Fail TD Niall Collins said the Taoiseach had left worried householders more confused than ever with his remarks.
“He has created total confusion about what it will mean for households, saying it is ’daft’ to ask at this stage how much the charges will be,” said Mr Collins.
“He has also left a lingering fear that households could have their water supply cut off if they don’t pay up.
“And then he has said that households will be ’rewarded’ for prudent use of water.”
Socialist Party TD Joe Higgins accused Mr Kenny of “constructive ambivalence” and warned that the controversy surrounding the Government’s mixed messages would only intensify opposition to the charges.
“You could say that the Government is inept, but it maybe also reflects the fact that the Labour Party is desperately trying to cover up its pledge that it would not introduce water charges, which it has since betrayed,” Mr Higgins added.
No definitive level for free water usage has been set out by Government to date. Those who do not use more than the allowance will still have to pay the standing charge, however, to cover the cost of metering.
Mr Kenny, however, has insisted that no upfront payment will be required for meters.
The new public utility Irish Water is to be established immediately as part of Bord Gais to oversee the roll-out of the water metering programme.
There have also been commitments that the company will not be privatised regardless of plans for a sale of State assets.
It costs around €1.2bn to supply all of Ireland’s homes with clean water. About 40% of supplies are thought to be lost through leaks
Ireland is the only country in the European Union and of the OECD states that does not charge for the resource.
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