Fianna Fáil Leader Micheál Martin TD has expressed surprise and anger at the Taoiseach’s inability to give any detail or properly answer questions about his proposals for introducing water charging and dismantling the current water service system.
Deputy Martin commented, “Since the Taoiseach and Minister Hogan couldn’t wait for the Oireachtas Committee to complete its report before handing over the multi million euro contract for water and wastewater services to Bord Gais, we would have been forgiven for thinking that the Taoiseach understood the details of his plan.
“However, the Taoiseach’s inability to answer the questions I put to him this morning demonstrated that the announcement about Bord Gais has more to do with an attempt to redirect embarrassing questions away from Government than it has to do with creating a better system for citizens.
“This morning, when I asked about the impact of his announcement on jobs in the water sector, the Taoiseach said that there will be no job losses. This is very odd in the context of the repeated claims of greater efficiency made by his colleagues. It is especially suspicious given that the PwC consultants report that he commissioned says that when the move to a new structure is complete, as a result of ‘synergies’, the number of people employed in providing local water and wastewater services “will be significantly lower than the 4,278 deployed today”
“The Taoiseach’s bald claim that there will be no job losses suggests a real lack of understanding about the road he has decided to go down. The experience of our nearest neighbour in the North is illuminating. In the 2005 /2006 year, local water services in NI employed 2,100 people. Their equivalent of the Bord Gais experiment was launched in April 2007 and there are now just 1,306 people employed in water and wastewater services there.
“The Taoiseach seems to be unaware that if the anything like the same level of ‘synergies’ are applied here, we are looking at job losses in the region of 1,600 people.
“I and others also asked him repeatedly about his estimates of how much families are going to be asked to pay. In his answers, he made a bizarre comment about trying to predict the cost of a ticket on a future Metro North rail line. Once again, his answer betrayed a fundamental lack of understanding about the nature of major projects like this – the ultimate cost to the customer should be one of the first considerations he made before deciding on this course of action.”
Deputy Martin concluded, “Minister Hogan was right when he described this development as a very important one. Given the lack of understanding of its implications at the highest levels of Government, his comments may soon become a major source of concern.”