Fianna Fáil has raised concerns about the fact that households that struggle to pay their water bills on time risk having their free water allowance cut off.

Irish Water has confirmed that households will only get the free allowance if they ‘pay their bills in a timely manner’.

According to Fianna Fáil Environment Spokesperson Barry Cowen, it means that families who are struggling financially risk losing their free allowance altogether.

“This is yet another hidden sting in the tail of Minister Hogan’s water charges plan. If Irish Water operates like other utilities and gives households approximately 14 days to pay their bills, then we could see a situation where households that just can’t get the money together on time have their free allowance cut off entirely,” said Deputy Cowen.

“There appears to be absolutely no tolerance for households that cannot pay their bills immediately. The Government has made no consideration of those families that are already struggling to pay all their other household bills and may not be able to pay a water bill on time on top of everything else.

“I also have concerns that Minister Hogan is being totally disingenuous about the true cost of water for households. If Irish Water is to cover its costs without a standing charge as promised, the price per litre will be .027 cent and not .016 cent as Minister Hogan told Cabinet it would be. The result is that families could face exorbitant annual bills.

“For example, let’s take a young family of five that uses a modest 340,000 litres. They get a fee allowance of 30,000 litres for the household, and the three children who are under the age of 18 get 38,000 litres each. That means that family has to pay for 196,000 litres. At a cost of .027 cent a litre, this family will pay €527 a year for their water.

“Minister Hogan has been far from upfront about the reality of water charges for households across the country. He was forced into announcing an ‘average’ water charge last week but failed to mention that this would be much higher for many families. He also failed to mention that there will be absolutely no leeway for households that may be late paying their bills. He has not yet addressed what will be done with the 1 million households that will still be without meters when charges kick in. And two years after he announced the establishment of Irish Water, the Minister’s super quango has still not spent one cent on upgrading the water supply.”