A minister for State at the Department of An Taoiseach has confirmed that local authorities will collect water rates.
Minister of State Simon Harris, who was in Longford on Friday confirmed to the Leader that Longford Co Council, as well as other local authorities across the country, would collect the rates, but only in circumstances where tenants, after 12 months of arrears, failed to negotiate with Irish Water.
The Minister’s comments came in the aftermath of a statement in the Dáil by Richard Boyd Barrett who announced that following the changes to the water rates last week by Environment Minister Alan Kelly, local authorities will be ‘required by law’ to take water charges arrears from council tenants and “remit them to Irish Water”.
The People Before Profit TD said the move amounted to local councils “doing the dirty work” of Irish Water.
Speaking to the Leader, Minister Harris said that easy payment plans had now been introduced and rates could now be paid at post offices.
“There has been a misconception that water pressure will be reduced but that will not happen,” he added. “The idea is that everyone makes a contribution, but if people choose not to pay, well then after 12 months they will be approached by Irish Water about payment plan options.
“If they refuse to co-operate at that point, then the arrears will be handed over to the local authority for collection.”
In a statement, Longford Co Council said, “The changes to the Irish Water charging plan have only recently been announced. As legislation is pending in this regard, Longford County Council will review the relevant legislation and its impact in due course.”
The new clause that caused the controversy in the first instance states, ‘In the particular case of local authority tenants, where deposit arrangements do not apply, where a customer is in arrears for more than 12 months, and a late payment fee has accrued, Irish Water – having first provided the customer with the opportunity to pay the arrears, or enter into a payment plan – will advise the local authority concerned of the amount of arrears, and the local authority will be required by law, to recover the amount outstanding over a 12-month period’.
The new legislation is expected to be introduced within the next few months.