Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Enterprise Dara Calleary has said that serious questions remain over the Government’s water charges regime and the long term implications for taxpayers and for social welfare recipients.

Deputy Calleary commented, “I welcome the fact that Fine Gael and Labour have finally been forced to come clean on aspects of Minister Phil Hogan’s water charges plans.

“Labour in particular has been doing its utmost to avoid telling households how much they will have to pay for their water ahead of the local and European elections.  The Government’s hand has now been forced ahead of a Fianna Fáil Private Members Motion in the Dáil this week, which demands an end to the secrecy surrounding the water charges regime.

“However several questions remain.  We still do not have a specific figure for what people will pay.  All the Government has been able to produce are average costs.  Minister Hogan has not outlined any major investment in the water network.  He gave no guarantee that families who fork out hundreds of euro a year for their water will get a decent quality service.  It’s still a case that despite the tens of millions of taxpayers’ money pumped into setting up Irish Water, not a cent has gone on fixing a leaky pipe or addressing serious problems with water quality in certain areas.

“Secondly, the range of concessions outlined today will take an estimated €40 million from the social protection budget.  This raises alarm bells about the impact on other key social welfare supports.  This Government has already slashed child benefit, cut range of supports for people with disabilities and their carers and targeted young job seekers.  The Government needs to spell out exactly where this €40 million is coming from.  We need a guarantee that it will not result in more sneaky cuts to people who most need support.

“There is also confusion surrounding the water charges for the 1 million households that will still be without meters when charges kick in in October.  Despite an ‘accelerated’ metering programme, the fact is that more than half of the houses in the country will still be without a meter at the end of this year.  Whatever way the Government spins it, this means flat rate charges for hundreds of thousands of households for at least the first year.

“This Government has a terrible track record when it comes to cutting household benefits packages.  I am concerned that the commitment to water allowances for children and a cap on charges for people with special needs is a very short term commitment to salvage votes for Fine Gael and Labour in the upcoming local and European elections.  It is crucial that the Government clears up the remaining confusion over its water charges regime now so that all households know exactly where they stand.”