At this evenings meeting of Dublin City Council Councillors of all parties and none supported a Fianna Fail motion calling on the Minister for the Environment to account for the wholly inadequate preparations to transfer water services in the city from Dublin City Council to Irish Water.
The motion read:
Dublin City Council expresses its concern about the lack of information and absence of planning relating to the transfer of water provision and disposal from the council to Irish Water. Secure and reliable water services are essential for the Dublin City. We call on the Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan to immediately provide details of his promised “first fix free” scheme that he said will see the Government pay for leaks found on homeowner’s property. We call for the Minister to attend a special meeting of Dublin City Council to addresses our concerns. – Cllr Mary Fitzpatrick, Tom Brabazon, Sean Paul Mahon, Paul McAuliffe, Jim O’Callaghan & Deirdre Heney
Irish Water is due to start installing domestic water meters in Dublin City this week yet the legislation to deal with this has not been published and the Minister has yet to release any details of his promised “first fix free” scheme. Meters are due to be installed in approximately 130,000 homes in the city and Homeowners are extremely concerned about the installation process and who will pay for any damage caused during the installations.
The Fianna Fáil group were prompted to table the motion because of a report from the City Manager to Councillors that details issues of serious concern about the proposed transition of water services from Dublin City Council to Irish Water including:
1. Some of the most important details about how water services will be delivered in the future have yet to be confirmed. The primary legislation that will set-out the arrangements for the transition of water services from local authorities to Irish Water has not yet been published yet Irish Water will begin to install meters to homes in the city this week.
2. A report to Dublin City Councillors from Dublin City Manager has outlined a number of significant issues and concerns including : no legislation, challenging timescales for transition of services from Dublin City Council to Irish Water, installation of domestic water meters from 7th October 2013, absence of Service Level Agreement, absence of Annual Service Plan, investment in water services, transfer of assets, staff, future planning and development matters, separation of drainage and wastewater services, customer relations management, financial issues and communications.
3. The government is prioritizing metering ahead of fixing leaks and building new water sources. Only secure and reliable water services are suitable to be metered and charged to homeowners and businesses. In June 2013 Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan promised homeowners that the Government will pay to fix any leaks found on the homeowner’s side. I have repeatedly requested details of Minister Hogan’s promised “first fix free” scheme but been unable to obtain any. Dublin City Council and Irish Water, the two organisations that work for Minister Hogan, and are responsible for water services have advised me that they have no information and suggested I check with the Minister. The last update I received from the Minister’s office indicated that the Minister is still working out the details. As of now homeowners are liable to fix any leaks found and if leaks are caused when the domestic meters are being installed it will be homeowners who will have to pay to have their gardens dug-up and leaks fixed. This could prove very costly for some homes and be unaffordable for many.
4. The financial aspects of this secret deal are of even greater concern. From the bits of available information it appears businesses in Dublin are going to face an unfair hike in charges to bring them in line with commercial water charges in other parts of the country. It also appears that funding for local services could be reduced as government uses the available funds to pay for Irish Water. Additionally the Government plans require all water services assets to be transferred from Dublin City Council to Irish Water. It is imperative that the City gets fair value for those public assets.
Secure and reliable water services are essential for Dublin City. There are too many unanswered questions and uncertainties around the Governments plans which strips Dublin City Council of valuable assets yet burdens it with continuing responsibilities and slams homes and businesses in the city with extra costs.
The Minister must address these issues before Councillors proceed down the road of repeating the mistake that was made with the disastrous transition of waste services to private operators in 2011.