herald

Friday 2 December 2016

Just 45pc of all Irish Water customers pay the first utility bills

charges

LESS than half of all Irish Water customers have paid their bills.

It is understood that just 45pc of the company's 1.5 million customers - or just under 700,000 people - have paid their first bill on time, which will put severe pressure on the utility to fund improvements to the network.

The company expected to collect just under €67m from domestic customers in the first billing cycle, which covered the period January to March.

However, it is understood that just over €30m has been paid. The revenue shortfall will come as a huge blow to Irish Water. The full payment figures will be published later today.

DEAD

Reacting to the figures, Renua leader Lucinda Creighton said: "This company is now more dead than the parrot in Monty Python. It does not have the confidence of consumers or of the political class.

"The Taoiseach and Minister Alan Kelly must now go back to the drawing board and start from scratch".

Anti Austerity Alliance TD Paul Murphy predicted the level of non-payment would grow in the future and described the figures as an "unmitigated disaster".

The low payment rate will come as a severe disappointment to the Government which believed that the water controversy had largely been addressed through changes to the system introduced last year.

The new system imposed an annual cap on bills - ranging from €160 for a single-adult household to €260 to families with two or more adults. Children are free.

A water conservation grant was the carrot the Government were using in a bid to get people to sign up to the utility. For those that registered by June, it was worth €100. Those who did not sign up will be hit with a full bill for €260.

However, a concerted campaign of opposition appears to have borne fruit. The figures suggest that despite more than 1.35 million people registering with Irish Water, the payment rates are well below expectations. One source described them as "disappointing".

However, Government sources insisted that Irish Water was sufficiently funded for the near future, and that payment levels to date were a "decent start".

The low payment rates will place severe pressure on the coalition in the run-up to the general election, with the issue of water charging expected to take centre stage.

It has dominated the political agenda for well over a year now.

It is expected that the figures will also force Irish Water to engage with registered customers in an effort to improve payment rates.

A spokesperson for the Department of the Environment described the figures as a "good, solid start" last night.

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