Sunday, 6 October 2013

Irish Water

Following announcement of Minister Phil Hogan's plan to transition water service from Dublin City Council to Irish Water and in advance of the official transition date of January 2014, Irish Water is due to start installing domestic water meters in Dublin City this week. I have major concerns which must be addressed before we proceed down a similar route to the disastrous transition of waste services to private operators in 2011.

Some of the most important details about how water services will be delivered in the future have yet to be confirmed. The primary legislation that will set-out the arrangements for the transition of water services from local authorities to Irish Water has not yet been published even while Irish Water install meters to homes in the city this week.

In a report, attached, to Dublin City Councillors, Dublin City Manager has outlined a number of significant issues and concerns including : no legislation, challenging timescales for transition of services from Dublin City Council to Irish Water, installation of domestic water meters from 7th October 2013, absence of Service Level Agreement, absence of Annual Service Plan, investment in water services, transfer of assets, staff, future planning and development matters, separation of drainage and waste water services, customer relations management, financial issues and communications. 

The government is prioritising metering ahead of fixing leaks and building new water sources. Only secure and reliable water services are suitable to be metered and charged to homeowners and businesses. Despite my repeated requests the Minister has still not given any details of his promise that the government will pay to fix any domestic leaks found. As of now homeowners are liable to fix any leaks found and if leaks are caused when the domestic meters are being installed it will be homeowners who will have to pay to have their gardens dug-up and leaks fixed. This could prove very costly for some homes and be unaffordable for many.
The financial aspects of this secret deal are of even greater concern. From the bits of available information it appears businesses in Dublin are going to face an unfair hike in charges to bring them in line with commercial water charges in other parts of the country. It also appears that funding for local services could be reduced as government uses the available funds to pay for Irish Water. Additionally the Government plans require all water services assets to be transferred from Dublin City Council to Irish Water. It is imperative that the City gets fair value for those public assets.

Secure and reliable water services are essential for the Dublin City. There are too many unanswered questions and uncertainties around the Governments plans which strips Dublin City Council of valuable assets yet burdens it with continuing responsibilities and slams homes and businesses in the city with extra costs.

At the City Council meeting I will propose a motion calling for the installation of domestic water meters to be put on hold until the Minister meets with City Councillors to address our concerns.

Every home in the city will be affected by this deal and I will ask all Councillors, including the majority Labour and Fine Geal Councillors some of whom must share our concerns, to support the motion and on behalf of the people of Dublin hold the Minister to account.

Motion in relation to Item 8 Report No. 340/2013 Transition to Irish Water 

Report No. 340/2013 details a number of significant issues around the Governments plans to transition water services from Dublin City Council to Irish Water. Secure and reliable water services are essential for the Dublin City. The elected members of Dublin City Council are concerned about the negative impact the issues raised in the report could have on every home and business in the city. We call on the Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan to immediately provide details of his promised “first fix free” scheme that he said will see the Government pay for leaks found on homeowner’s property. We call for the installation of domestic water meters to be delayed until such time as the Minister meets with City Councillors and addresses our concerns.