Irish government caps water charges

Water meter Image copyright Thinkstock

The Irish government has revised its plans for the introduction of domestic water charges, a key austerity measure.

The Fine Gael-Labour coalition has faced major protests over the issue.

Environment Minister Alan Kelly said charges would be capped at 160 euros (£128) for single adult households and 260 euros (£208) for others.

Announcing the revised measures, he told parliament: "We now have a choice of short-term emotion and anger or long-term prudence and common sense."

'Critical choice'

Water conservation grants of 100 euros a year (£80) mean the effective costs will be 60 euros (£48) and 160 euros (£128) respectively.

The starting date is 1 January, with the first bills to be issued in April.

Mr Kelly said: "We, as a government, have made mistakes but now we face a critical choice."

He added: "Anger is never a good starting point for a key decision."

Image copyright PA
Image caption Thousands of people march in a demonstration against water charges

Mr Kelly said the measures would provide "certainty", as every household would know what their capped bills will be until the end of 2018.

"The absolute maximum net cost is now just over three euros per week," he said.

"For single households, it will be approximately 1.15 euros per week - it is much less than 1% of most people's incomes or benefits and puts water bills among the lowest in Europe."

In one of many protests against water charges in the Republic of Ireland, tens of thousands of people marched through Dublin last month to show their opposition.

Ahead of Mr Kelly's announcement in parliament, an anti-water charges group warned of a major boycott of the bills.

The We Won't Pay group, led by Socialist Party members of parliament, said the concessions would give way to a steep rise in the future.

The controversial austerity measure is a key part of the government's plan to pay back the international financial bailout the state had to seek in 2010.

The Fine Gael-Labour coalition government has said the charges are necessary because it costs roughly 1 billion euros (£790m) a year to supply water out of general taxation.

Revised charges at a glance

  • Capped annual charges will be 160 euros for single adult households and 260 euros for all other households until the end of 2018
  • Eligible households will receive a water conservation grant of 100 euros per year
  • This means that the net yearly cost for water will be either 60 euros for a single adult household or 160 euros for all other households until the end of 2018
  • For the purpose of metered bills, the charge for water in/out is reduced to 3.70 euros per 1,000 litres
  • Households with either a water supply only or sewage only service will pay 50% of these rates
  • In metered usage, as under-18s each have an allowance of 21,000 litres a year, the Irish government says "children will continue to go free"
  • Dwellings that are not permanently occupied will pay a minimum of 125 euros per year (62.50 euros per service) up to a cap of 260 euros

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