Equality for those on group water schemes essential under any new water regime – Ó Broin
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Water Eoin Ó Broin TD has said that equality for those on group water schemes must form an essential part of the final report of the special water committee.
Deputy Ó Broin said:
“Sinn Féin is of the view that people on group water schemes should be treated no differently than those on the public system. In our Alternative Budget proposals for 2017, we allocated an additional €1.5m towards the subsidy for group water schemes. For 2016 the government subsidy was just over €16 million.
“Parity between water service users is also supported by the Report of the Expert Commission on Water which states:
‘Equity with the proposed arrangements for consumers on public supplies must be maintained for those who are not served by public water supplies. The Expert Commission recommends that this be reviewed when the allowances for consumers on public supplies are determined and that equity for group schemes and private wells be maintained through additional subsidy or other means.’
“During the course of the work of the special water committee, we have heard from representatives from the National Federation of Group Water schemes and read submissions from interested parties. I questioned Minister Coveney’s departmental officials at length as to how his department would ensure that those on group schemes are treated the same as those on the public system.
“The key difference is that group water schemes receive an annual subsidy of €70 per household but it does not cover the full annual cost of accessing the water supply. Those connected to the public water supply who are currently customers of Irish Water do not pay an annual charge for accessing that supply. Equity would mean that the State would cover the full annual cost of group water scheme users accessing that water supply.
“We don’t yet have a final figure on how much it will cost to fully fund the annual standing charge. However, the Department has estimated that the additional cost to the Exchequer would be around €52.88 on average per household. On that basis, the estimated cost to fully fund the annual charge for these schemes would be an additional €4.9 million annually.”