Firm evidence is needed to back up the 45% reduction in the water allowance for children and changes are needed to take account of the burden of water charges for young adults, according to Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Finance Michael McGrath TD.
Deputy McGrath stated, “The government’s claim that the average level of water charges per household would be €240 was based on an allowance per child of 38,000 litres and Phil Hogan’s estimate that a single adult used 78,000 litres per annum. The CER’s estimate of an average bill of €278 per annum is based on entirely different assumptions – an allowance per child of 21,000 litres and consumption of 66,000 litres per annum for a single occupancy household.
“The government’s assertion that its average household water charge has been honoured is based on creative accounting and is designed to mislead voters again. It’s like saying that the €5 price of a bag of apples hasn’t changed – even though you now only get 6 apples in the bag instead of 10.
“The dramatic 45% reduction in the allowance per child has to be independently verified. The suspicion here is that, far from it being free, families will in fact end up paying for much of the water used by children. The CER needs to publish its evidence that an allowance of only 21,000 litres per annum is sufficient.
“The position concerning the charging young adults is a cause of serious concern. At the moment, on reaching the age of 18, no further water allowance is available for a teenager. This means that many teenagers doing their Leaving Certificate and attending third level college will be subject to the full level of water charges.
“Families living in disadvantaged areas with a high dropout rate from school will have even higher water charges as the free allowance will disappear when the child reaches 16 if he or she is not in full-time education. All of this will place an unbearable burden on families with grown up children still living at home and needs to be reviewed before the charges come into effect on 1 October. The reality is that young adults use a lot of water and many of them are not income earners. Families in this situation are going to be the hardest hit by water charges. Under the current proposals many families will be facing annual water bills of €600-700.
“The reality is that, despite all the promises of tax cuts in October’s budget, most families will be worse off in 2015 as a result of the introduction of punitive water charges by this government”.