herald

Monday 24 July 2017

Ross 'hissy fit' blamed as water refunds face blockage in Dail

Shane Ross
Shane Ross

Plans to issue water charge refunds in October's Budget are in jeopardy as a result of the row over judicial appointments.

Last night, a senior Government source admitted the legislation logjam meant it was highly unlikely the water legislation would be passed before the summer recess.

Fianna Fail has blamed a "hissy fit" by Shane Ross over judicial appointments.

The party last night claimed the row over the appointment of judges has resulted in other important legislation being downgraded.

Fianna Fail's housing spokesperson, Barry Cowen, accused the Government of prioritising the judicial bill to appease ­Independent Minister Mr Ross.

"The bottom line is this legislation should have been easily passed by the summer recess," Mr Cowen said.

"Now it is clear that because of the hissy fit by Shane Ross and Finian McGrath, this legislation is in doubt.

Punish

"Taoiseach Leo Varadkar needs to spell out clearly whether the pledge laid down by the committee to ensure no household is treated differently is fulfilled in the Budget."

However, the Government source insisted that Housing and Water Minister Eoghan Murphy would "do his utmost" to ensure refunds were provided for in the Budget.

"This is a priority but unfortunately there is now so much legislation facing us to get over the line," the source said.

After 22 meetings of the Oireachtas water committee, the majority of members voted to scrap the billing system introduced by the Fine Gael/Labour coalition.

In its place will be a new regime which penalises those who engage in 'excess use' or the 'wilful waste' of water.

It's estimated that 8pc of households will fall into this category, meaning the vast majority won't pay bills. The committee agreed the regulator would determine what constituted normal usage.

However, crucially the threshold for wastage will be set at 1.7 times this level based on the calculation that the average person uses 133 litres per day.

Allowances will also be introduced for 'extraordinary circumstances', such as medical conditions and larger households.

Under the deal between Fine Gael and Fianna Fail, legislation will be drawn up to punish around 70,000 households that currently use 32pc of the country's domestic water supply.

Backtracked

The final report also recommends that building regulations be amended so that builders are required to install water meters in all new homes.

Fianna Fail had initially objected to the word 'excessive', and the further roll-out of meters last week, but backtracked on foot of fresh legal advice.

If the bill proposing refunds does not get ratified by the summer recess, the Government will be under major pressure to pass it once the Dail resumes in the autumn.

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