Question marks over
water charge plans

Government plans to charge Longford homeowners for domestic water has not been properly thought through, it was argued this week.

Government plans to charge Longford homeowners for domestic water has not been properly thought through, it was argued this week.

Several local politicians questioned the workings behind a decision that will see Irish Water take over the managership of water collection charges at a local level.

Others, like Cllr Mark Casey raised doubts about how the changes might affect the council’s present compliment of water services employees.

“I am very concerned about this. There seems to be no planning and nothing mentioned in terms of where that leaves Longford County Council’s staff,” he said.

Cllr Casey added there were questions too about the governance of a system that could see families paying around €400 a year when charges kick in from October next year.

In accordance with the EU/IMF bailout terms, water charges were expected to be introduced from the beginning of next year.

Last week, it was announced that timescale had been deferred following government talks with the troika, meaning bills will not be formally issued unil January 2015.

The gradual release of information, or lack of it, as Cllr Martin Mulleady pointed out, had done little to clarify people’s issues , he said.

Question marks hanging over group water schemes was another topic Cllr PJ Reilly said demanded attention.

“Any scheme that is two years on a waiting list should be automatically taken over. If they are not taken over by local authorities or Irish Water, it will just leave people on these schemes up in the air,” he said.

Cllr Paul Connell endorsed that call and took issue with claims Irish Water’s stewardship of the nation’s water network would be well supervised.

“Don’t forget, there was a regulator appointed to the banks and look at the job he did,” said a frustrated Cllr Connell.

County Manager Tim Caffrey attempted to pacify many of those concerns by assuring councillors the changeover would be trouble-free.

“The critical issue is around the area of liabilities and assets,” he said. “We (council) are strongly of the view that there will be minimal, if any financial impact on this council from Irish Water taking over water services.”

To deal with how the transition will take shape, the council’s executive planned to fully brief elected members by way of a specially arranged presentation in October.