Finance Minister raises possibility that water bills could be refunded

Michael Noonan did not indicate whether he supported spending money for that purpose...

Finance Minister raises possibility that water bills could be refunded

Michael Noonan. Image: RollingNews.ie

The Finance Minister has tonight raised the possibility that water bills could be refunded for those who have already paid.

Michael Noonan told a meeting of Fine Gael TDs and senators that Exchequer returns for November would be €280m ahead of expectations.

The tax take for the first ten months of the year was already €680m higher than planned.

It means the State would be able to afford refunds for the €144m paid in water charges last year - although Noonan did not indicate whether he supported spending money for that purpose.

It came only hours after Paschal Donohoe said we need to keep some form of water charges to be fair to those who have paid.

The prospect of refunds has been raised after the expert water commission suggested that only those who are wasteful should be charged for their water.

The report recommends: "The water utility will provide sufficient water to all citizens to cover their domestic and personal needs, and the costs of providing that water will be recovered from the State, which will be a customer of Irish Water".

TDs will soon be given their say on the proposals in the Dáil.

While the report's publication have been welcomed by Government and opposition parties, AAA-PBP claims the expert commission on water services is "a trick" to leave the door open for water charges.

Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe, meanwhile, will not be asking for money to be handed back.

Speaking to Newstalk Drive, he explained: "I will be voting for the principle of retaining some form of charging. That's my view, that's one I articulated in Fine Gael and during the general election.

"One of the reasons why I will be doing that is I believe that's the only way of being fair to people who have paid," he added.

He added: "I think it's a good report that gives us the best last chance that we have of maintaining any consensus into how we pay for water in the future."