The Minister for Public Expenditure says he can't understand Fianna Fáil's refusal to back an excessive usage charge
The Minister for Public Expenditure has criticised Fianna Fáil over “inconsistency” in its stance on water charges.
A new draft of the final report from the Oireachtas Committee on the Future Funding of Water is expected tomorrow – following disagreement between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael last week.
Fianna Fáil has called for the complete abolition of the charges – a position the government insists will result in large fines being imposed on Ireland by Europe.
It is expected that refunding customers who paid their water charges will cost the exchequer at least €160m.
Speaking today, Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe said he plans to outline “all of the different consequences” associated with potential solutions to the water issue after the committee has finished its work.
He said he can't understand why Fianna Fáil are objecting to a moderate charge for excessive use - but will support sanctioning people and taking them to court.
“I think there is a broader issue here that needs to be considered and dealt with particularly in the context of Fianna Fáil’s stance on this matter,” said Minister Donohoe.
“What they are currently willing to say is that they would be potentially willing to fine people for excess use of water but they wouldn’t be willing to charge them for excess use of water and this is the kind of inconsistency now that needs to be resolved in the coming weeks.”
While Fianna Fáil accepts the need curb excessive water use – it believes this can be done under existing laws.
The party has proposed a system of district metering - instead of metering within homes - as a way of identifying householders who consistently waste water.
Minister Donohoe said expecting the state to fine and sanction people for the use of excess water – without the use of water meters – would cause significant challenges for any government.
“For any government to find itself in a situation where it has to deal with fining people for excess water usage or taking them to court for excess water usage but is not in a position to be able to charge them a moderate amount for that usage would present even greater difficulty for water policy than we have at the moment,” he said.
The Taoiseach has insisted the government will not facilitate any new system that is contrary to EU law, however Fine Gael on Friday agreed to seek new legal advice on the matter.