Fixed rate water charges announced last nighty are only “‘a confidence trick” to “bribe hard-pressed families into paying, while Government pledges that Irish Water will not be privatised have met with scepticism from Galway councillors.
In the latest climbdown by the Government on its deeply unpopular water tax, charges will be capped at €160 a year for families while a single adult household will pay a €60 rate. The caps will remain in place until the end of 2018.
Both figures are lower than expected and include the annual €100 rebate payable upon registration with Irish Water. The changes to the Government’s water tax plan were announced in the Dáil yesterday afternoon by the Minister for the Environment, Alan Kelly.
However the new capped rates have been described as “a confidence trick” by Sinn Féin Galway City East councillor Máiréad Farrell.
“This flat rate is only a temporary con-job measure and when the installed water meters come into play the cost of water will spiral,” she warned. “Thousands of people took to the streets on this issue, including thousands in Galway. This demonstration of ‘people power’ was not demanding a lowering of the amount. The people want the water charges scrapped.”
A major public concern is that controversial quango Irish Water could eventually be privatised, resulting in water costs being hiked regularly. However Fine Gael-Labour has sought to allay fears by bringing forward legislation “so that Irish Water will be retained in public ownership and will never be privatised,” according to An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny.
However Cllr Farrell and Independent county councillor James Charity have stated this week that they are unconvinced by any Government “assurances” on this issue.
Cllr Charity said the entire water taxes issue reveals the political establishment to be “completely out of touch with its citizens”. He said Irish Water “was never required and the undoubted future privatisation of the company will lead to vastly inflated bills being imposed on the most vulnerable and repeatedly targeted sections of our society”.
Cllr Farrell said the Government’s refusal to support Sinn Féin’s Constitution Bill to ensure “that water services and infrastructure remain in public ownership” is “a clear sign that the intention is to privatise water, just like refuse collection was privatised”.