Minister says claiming back water conservation grant would be "disingenuous"

The total cost of water charge refunds has been estimated at €178m

Minister says claiming back water conservation grant would be "disingenuous"

Social Protection Minister, Regina Doherty. Image: Sean Defoe/Newstalk

A Cabinet minister has said that it would be “disingenuous” to claim back the water conservation grant from those who did not pay their water charges.

Yesterday the Minister for Finance, Paschal Donohoe said the total cost of covering the refunds will be €178m – including a €5m bill to cover administrative costs.

Fianna Fáil has written to the government to express concern over the lack of clarity as to where the funds are coming from – amid concerns capital spending on housing will be affected as a result.

The party is also critical of plans to let households who never paid their charges keep the €100 conservation grant – accusing the Department of Social Protection of not working hard enough to recover the funds.

This afternoon however, Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty said it would not be right for the government to claim back the grant:

“Given, I suppose, the complexity of the establishment of it,” she said. “Given that it was an incentivised payment for people to reduce their water consumption – and I know other people have their view around it, I actually think it would be disingenuous to go back take it off people.” she said

Yesterday the junior housing minister Damien English insisted his department expects to use up all the funds made available to it – regardless of the cost associated with refunds.

He said the total housing budget is around €1.3bn, adding “we are well on track to spending all our money – in fact we will be looking for more.”

 “Every department has to fight for resources but what I am saying to you is in our department, we can spend what we have - there will be no issue with under-spending in our department.”