Council urged not to do Irish Water’s ‘dirty work’ of installing meters

Warnings that new water tax proposals could exacerbate housing crisis

Galway City Council workers are being called on to down tools and refuse to carry out preparatory work for the installation of water meters on behalf of Irish Water.

The call has come from Sinn Féin city councillor Mairéad Farrell after she and the Right 2 Water campaign were contacted on Monday by residents in the Claremont estate to inform them that council staff were working on the stop cocks in the area.

Cllr Farrell said water metering is “the first step in the planned privatisation of water” and council workers must “cease doing Irish Water’s dirty work”. She also warned that meters “will result in people losing the domestic water service” when they refuse to pay the “spiralling bills that will inevitably result from water metering”.

Anticipating reposts from pro-water tax politicians that protests are about refusing to pay for public utilities and services, she pointed out that the public “already pay for domestic water many times over through numerous taxes”.

Landlords to act as debt collectors for Irish Water?

Further concerns about the deeply unpopular water tax has come following new proposals announced by Environment Minister Alan Kelly, which could make property owners liable for unpaid water bills.

Conor Burke of the We Won’t Pay campaign said this measure is “forcing landlords to act as debt collectors for Irish Water” and that it could also “lead to a dramatic worsening of the housing crisis” as it would “price whole sections of renters out of the market”.

The Irish Property Owners’ Association has also expressed “grave concern” over the proposal which contradicts assurances the Government gave to the IPOA that tenants would be fully liable for their own usage of water.

The IPOA says any charges due can only be the responsibility of the person/tenant who signed on as a customer of the utility, and has questioned the constitutionality of any provision that would allow a tenant's personal debt to become the debt of the landlord.

“If a precedent is set with water, landlords could end up being responsible for tenants who default on other utility charges,” said IPOA chair Stephen Faughnan. “The new proposals also explicitly interfere in the relationship between landlords and tenants in a way not seen before, and also has the potential to adversely impact on the Government’s new housing strategy.”

It is understood that if the proposed legislation goes ahead as planned, it is likely to be in two tranches, the first before Christmas dealing with tariffs, and the second in the New Year dealing with landlords’ obligations.

“Apart from tenants’ obligations,” Mr Faughnan said, “along with the issue of retrospective liability for existing tenants, this flawed proposal is totally unworkable, impractical, and completely against the concept of conservation.”

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