Campaigners warn of backlash against excessive bin charges

Independent TD Clare Daly says there will be a public backlash if waste collectors charge high fees

Campaigners are warning that there will be a public backlash if the government's new bin-charges scheme results in high fees for consumers.

The government is hoping that a compromise reached with Fianna Fáil last night will diffuse the row over the controversial new charging scheme.

Following two hours of debate in the Dáil last night the government agreed to ask the Competition Authority to examine whether an independent regulator will be needed for the waste industry.

The government also agreed to establish a pricing "watchdog" that will compile evidence on the operation of the industry.

Campaigners against the charges had pledged to put the same level of energy that was devoted to the anti-water campaign into defeating the new charging regime - with Solidarity calling for a boycott should it be introduced.

Public backlash

On The Pat Kenny Show this morning, independent TD Clare Daly said there will be a backlash if the new regulator allows collectors to charge high fees.

"People take to the streets when their standard of living is going to be threatened and undermined or when they face price hikes that they can't afford," she said.

She said the government had been "pushed into" making concessions for those with extra waste needs and with the introduction of the price watchdog because "they know it is a big issue."

"People can only take so much so whether they have they done enough to diffuse it for the next couple of months? Maybe."

"But when you have private companies, in a market as it is at the moment, we are probably going to come back to it at some point in the future.

Necessary charges

Following the agreement last night, the Communications Minister Dennis Naughten said the new bin charges should not be feared.

He said they are necessary to change re-use and recycling habits - adding that the country must wake up to the fact that we can't keep sending waste to landfill.

"Nobody leaves the lights and the immersion on anymore, when there is an incentive to turn them off," he said.

"This is a similar behavioural change we need to introduce in the waste area."

"We in Ireland were the first to introduce behavioural changes in relation to plastic bags - and it worked."

Value for money

Fianna Fáil's environment spokesperson Timmy Dooley welcomed the deal - insisting the government had recognised that there was a "threat" in terms of value for money for consumer waste collection.

"There are real concerns out there that now that the waste system is changing that some of the unscrupulous collectors will attempt to overcharge and effectively gouge the consumer," he said.

"We were concerned about that and, I think in a diplomatic way, have worked with the government to ensure now that a regulator will be put in place in due course that will give protection and will give value for money to the consumer - and ensure that there is transparency around pricing."

Solidarity-People Before Profit have called for the end of private waste collection companies insisting that bin services should be paid for through general taxation.

Sinn Féin has called on the government to scrap the new plan and introduce an extensive waiver system for vulnerable consumers.

The Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said the new bin-charges system will be phased in gradually over a 15-month period.