The new Government might be up and running a couple of weeks now but the great Irish Water debate continues to rumble on.
The issue of water charges was one of the reasons why it took the best part of two and a half months after February’s General Election for a government to be formed.
Fianna Fáil insisted on water charges being shelved in order to support a minority government led by Fine Gael and supported by independents.
In the wake of that deal it was announced that water bills would be suspended from the end of March.
However, with a large number of people having not paid for previous quarters or, indeed, at all the question remains what happens in this instance.
Is it fair that some have met every payment and others haven’t?
The only real statement on the matter was by new government chief whip Regina Doherty who said at the start of the month that the new bills would not “magically disappear” and must be paid until the charges are suspended next month at the end of the current billing cycle.
However, that message hasn’t really got across with Irish Water confirming yesterday that there had been a significant reduction in revenue from water charges from bills sent out at the start of 2016.
The bills relate to services used during the last three months of 2015, suggesting people stopped paying in the build-up to the General Election when the future of water charges were a hot topic. These bills would have been issued to households in January and February.
Figures from the utility showed that the amount collected in charges for Q4 2015 was down by more than 20% compared with the previous billing cycle and that is expected to reduce further yet again with many more households expected to ignore the latest bills.
The amount was €33m down from €42.3m over the previous quarter.
During that period also, 8,000 of the 200,000 customers who had signed up to pay their water charges by direct debit cancelled their direct debit mandates.
However, Irish Water said that a total of 975,000 people had paid domestic water charges during 2015 which is 64% of households liable to the charges.
The total amount collected over the year was €144m which was 53% of the total income due from domestic charges during 2015.
With the matter set to be discussed more in the coming weeks as the due date for payments for the first three months of 2016 approaches, we’d like your opinion.
- Is it any surprise that people are ignoring the payments?
- Should the government be clearer about what exactly happens next in relation to water charges?
- Has Irish Water got a future?
Have your say below…