Water charge issue needs greater transparency

The Government’s planned introduction of water charges needs greater clarity, the head of one of the country’s largest community based organisations has argued.

The Government’s planned introduction of water charges needs greater clarity, the head of one of the country’s largest community based organisations has argued.

National Federation of Group Water Schemes’ Colm Brady, said staff at the association’s head office in Co Monaghan have fielded several calls in recent days from worried homeowners.

“Possibly so,” Mr Brady said, when asked if the planned changes required greater transparency from Leinster House bosses.

A Mullahoran native and the federation’s national co-ordinator, Mr Brady said the much publicised changes nonetheless had plenty of positive connotations attached to it.

“It’s a complete shake up of the whole service,” he said on Monday. “We (NFGWS) would have had lots of calls alright from people and how it will affect them.”

News of the wider public uncertainty follows a weekend when mixed messages over the charges continued.

Last week, opposition parties accused under fire Environment Minister Phil Hogan of exacerbating the situation.

Under its workings, new public utility, Irish Water as part of Bord Gais is expected to oversee the roll-out of the water metering programme, due to come into effect in 2014 at the earliest.

“The talk has been of a six year transition plan from local authorities to Irish Water. The rough parts look to be in place but it still doesn’t seem that clear,” he said.

Anxious to appease disconcerted homeowners, Mr Brady said schemes linked to the NFGWS would remain in place.

“Group water schemes are member owned organisations and that won’t change unless a particular group wants that to change,” he added.

The decision to implement a more universal metering system was something Mr Brady however gave a broad welcome to.

Asked if the move would help alleviate leaks and other associated problems, he said: “Definately. It’s the only way of knowing how secure your water is. If you don’t have meters, you just don’t know where your water is going.”

The water expert, who has held the position of the NFGWS’ national co-ordinator for the past eight years, predicted the changes would lead to a “significant” reduction in water demand as charges gradually come into force.

Longford Westmeath TD James Bannon described the charges as “punitive”, but were necessary in order to generate much needed additional revenue.

“The Government recognises the hardship the Irish people have faced and in a bid to ensure our country is not dependent on an unsustainable source of revenue for funding and that we never again find ourselves in this situation are working hard to broaden our tax base while giving people certainty about their take home pay,” he said.