herald

Sunday 17 December 2017

€100 top-up to cut water bill for OAPs, carers and low paid

A REPRIEVE is to be offered to low-income families, old age pensioners and carers who will receive €100 annually in social welfare payments to help pay water charges.

Water charges are due to come into effect in October with the first bills dropping in January.

The average household is expected to pay €240-a-year in water charges with details of proposed charges due to be released toward the end of next week.

Tanaiste Joan Burton said the €100 subsidy for vulnerable people was approved by the Government after she brought a memo to Cabinet yesterday morning.

"I brought a memo myself for a payment of €100 for those on the household benefits package, which will cover over 415,000 households.

"People over 70, people who act as carers, people who are on disability," she said.

Four quarterly payments of €25 will be made to such families and in conjunction with the free allowance for children should "mitigate" the costs of having to pay for water, Ms Burton said.

"This will help people meet the costs of water and will extend to all families in receipt of the household benefit package.

"Together with the free allowance that people will get it will go a long way to mitigate the cost of water to such houses," she said at an event at Connolly Memorial Hospital in Blanchardstown in Dublin.

The additional social welfare payment will cost €44m a year and payments will start for the first quarter next January.

The charging of water was a major flashpoint between the coalition parties ahead of the local and European elections in May.

Against the wishes of Irish Water, the Government scrapped a proposed €50 standing charge.

A spokesman for the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) said today that the Government's decisions to grant the €100 to low income families by way of social welfare benefits and the scrapping of the standing charge will have to be taken into account when it decides on the charges.

The CER is to publish its proposed charges in a series of public consultation documents sometime next week.

It said however it is determined to work within the Government's policy that average annual bills will be €240 per household.

Asked about Irish Water's request to have the free allowance for children to be cut by 38,000 litres a year to 21,000, the CER said that it is examining the submission and it will be incorporated into its final numbers.

Irish Water had demanded a standing charge to give it a guaranteed revenue stream, but the Government decided to scrap that in May after a furious row between Fine Gael and Labour.

hnews@herald.ie

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