The revelation that Irish Water has spent over €50M on consultants while not at all surprising reveals how the costs associated with water metering seem to be spiraling.
However the main issue is the lack of clarity and indeed leadership being shown on how the process of charging for water will be managed. Irish Water the state agency responsible for delivering water metering will be central to managing the project. It is vital that John Tierney the CEO of Irish Water and the Minister responsible Phil Hogan set out exactly how metering will be rolled out and how it will affect households. As it currently stands people are relying on the media to explain how this will work.
Irish Water still have not made a decision on the final water rates to be charged to households. A decision, we are told, will be made at the end of August. The amount that consumers will be charged has not been decided. One could be cynical and suggest that it is in Fine Gael and Labour’s interest to delay any announcement until after May’s Local Elections.
There are a myriad of other issues that require clarify none more so than the issue of managing leaks and how they will be dealt with. So far this remains unclear with media reports suggesting that households will have just twelve months to identify problems after which they would be responsible for paying for any repairs themselves. Considering the decades of under investment in the water structure this is blatantly unfair.
With an estimated 300,000 apartments in the overall housing stock of 1.6 million units it is becoming clear that thousands of apartments will not be metered. The majority will be billed on the basis of an “assessed charge”with the regulator determining costs based on occupancy or the number of rooms rather than consumption.
This Government has moved along way from its initial declaration that this was somehow an environmental issue and about conserving water. How it handles the final roll out and billing of households will be Fine Gael and Labour’s legacy.