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Evidence given by Scottish and Welsh Water to the Joint Committee on the Future Funding of Domestic Water Services in Ireland identified €500million was wasted by Irish Water in installing domestic water meters.

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Yesterday Deputy Healy continued to raise issues at the Joint Committee on the Future Funding of Domestic Water Services.

  1. Following up from previous meetings where he was informed that the metering programme would cease on 31 January 2017 I asked Irish Water for confirmation that the water metering programme had stopped and that contractors had been instructed to stop installing meters as of yesterday? 
  2. He asked why Irish Water has no local offices or officials that the public can engage with directly?  
  3. He asked why the public weren’t being notified re interruptions to water supply or planned maintenance by way of radio advertisements or leaflet drops?  
  4. He also asked why Irish Water were cutting off supply to premises without notice or why they are cutting off supply at all?

He will as always keep you updated.


The Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Future Funding of Domestic Water Services met most recently on Wednesday last, 25 January 2017.  I continue to raise many issues of public concern regarding our water services and to insist that important issues such as the need for a constitutional amendment to ensure protection of water services from privatisation be discussed.

Séamus Healy (Tipperary, Workers and Unemployed Action Group): It was suggested that we should not have been discussing this issue, but it is wholly appropriate for this committee to discuss a constitutional amendment. We are discussing the principle, not the specifics, which are for another committee to address. A constitutional amendment is the only certain protection against privatisation of water services, so the suggestion that the currently stated view of political parties and individual politicians that they are not in favour of privatisation represents a guarantee against it is almost laughable.

Pádraig Ó Céidigh (Independent): Does the Deputy have a question or is he making statements?

Séamus Healy (Tipperary, Workers and Unemployed Action Group): That was a statement made by another committee member.

Pádraig Ó Céidigh (Independent): I am trying to move on.

Séamus Healy (Tipperary, Workers and Unemployed Action Group): So am I.

Pádraig Ó Céidigh (Independent): In fairness, I want to allow other members to contribute.

Séamus Healy (Tipperary, Workers and Unemployed Action Group): The statement does not stand up. In the witnesses’ view, is a constitutional amendment the only certain protection against privatisation? Is it not the case that any current protection, whatever it might be, can be changed by an Act of the Oireachtas?

There appears to be a difference of opinion on the alienation of assets. Is that in itself not an indication that a constitutional amendment is the better way of proceeding? If the departmental and legal views at this meeting differ, is it not clear that the only way to achieve certainty is by way of a constitutional amendment?

Do the Minister and Ervia have voting rights in Irish Water? I am seeking a “Yes” or “No” answer to my next question. Is Mr. Ó Tuathail satisfied that a constitutional amendment would not in any way affect current group water schemes?

Pádraig Ó Céidigh (Independent): I thank the Deputy, but my understanding is that some of his questions have already been asked by Deputy Murphy.

Séamus Healy (Tipperary, Workers and Unemployed Action Group): They may have been.

Pádraig Ó Céidigh (Independent): Is that the case, Deputy Murphy? I could be wrong, but Deputy Healy asked five questions, the last two of which had not been asked previously. I will ask our guests to answer each of them,—–

Séamus Healy (Tipperary, Workers and Unemployed Action Group): Please do.

Pádraig Ó Céidigh (Independent): —–but I believed that three of them had been answered previously.

Séamus Healy (Tipperary, Workers and Unemployed Action Group): I do not believe that they were the same.

Pádraig Ó Céidigh (Independent): The Deputy may be correct.

Mr. Séamas Ó Tuathail: As to whether a constitutional amendment is the only way—–

Séamus Healy (Tipperary, Workers and Unemployed Action Group): The only certain way.

Mr. Séamas Ó Tuathail: I would say “Yes”. As to whether any other protection can be removed, I would say “Yes”. As to the difference of opinion, I will not comment. That has already been said. The Ervia question is for Ms Graham. As to whether I am satisfied that an amendment would not in any way affect existing rights, “Yes” is the answer.

Ms Maria Graham: I can only refer to my statement, in which I said that we had sought to maximise the protections within the existing legislation. The Minister has recognised the sincerity of the proposals being made and the concerns that have been raised, and he is open to a work-up of proposals. For that reason, the Bill was not opposed and it was suggested that it needed legal and technical scrutiny when on Committee Stage.

A constitutional protection is always higher than a legislative provision. We have discussed the issues with wording.

Regarding voting, Ervia is owned by the State and Ervia owns Irish Water. Ervia has the voting rights, not the Minister. Rather, he has the economic rights. However, there is a range of provisions under the legislation for which ministerial consent is required. The Minister also gives Ervia what is called a shareholder’s expectation letter, which sets out the range of activities that he, as the shareholder in the State company, expects Ervia to perform. That involves a number of metrics and is common to the NewERA family, as it were, those being, ESB, Gas Networks Ireland, etc.

That would set out a range of things to do with dividend policy, water policy, and energy policy, etc. While the Minister does not have a voting right, there is obviously a policy construct within the legislation, within the NewERA legislation, and within the specific ministerial consents that are set out in legislation.


 

Seamus Healy TD (Member of Oireachtas Committee on Water Services) calls for complete abolition of Domestic Water Charges, opposes any payment for domestic water and rejects any extra taxation to pay for water twice including a new dedicated water tax similar to Local Property Tax (LPT). Irish Water must be abolished. I have been nominated to the Oireachtas Committee On Water Services. I will be resisting these recommendations.

I will also be organising and participating in mass marches against the implementation of these recommendations

A majority, 90 of the 158 Teachtaí Dála (TD’s) elected in the last general election were elected on the basis of complete abolition of water charges and The Irish Water utility.  The combination of Expert Commission-Oireachtas Committee-Dáil Vote in March was devised by Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael after the General Election to negate the democratic vote of the people and bring back water charges.

The Commission essentially recommends that households pay for water twice through a combination of charges and taxes.

The Report states:

5.2.17  The recommended Funding Model, if implemented, will place the main burden of financing the operational cost of providing domestic water services on the exchequer to be paid for through taxation. The Question of whether there should be a dedicated tax, a broadly based fiscal instrument, or an adjustment to existing taxes to fund this requirement would be a matter of Budgetary Policy and outside the scope of this report, but is worthy of further consideration.”-Commission Report Page 35

The underlying assumption in the above recommendation is that domestic water should be paid for by the citizens for a second time. This must be firmly rejected.

New  “Dedicated Tax” suggests an LPT style arrangement which would convert a charges system to a tax liability which can be compulsorily deducted from income at source. This can be imposed on households with no taxable income (e.g. social welfare/low pay).

“A broadly based Fiscal Instrument” means that there would be a specific provision in law for some kind of water or house tax including water tax. This can be imposed on households with no taxable income (e.g. social welfare/low pay)

“Adjustment to Existing Taxes” means that there should be a general tax increase to pay a second time for water through an adjustment of rates/bands/ allowances/ tax credits.

The commission has also recommended that Irish Water be retained and that charges be imposed for extra usage.

Refuse charges were originally introduced at €5.  Now hundreds of Euro are payable. The same will happen with water if there is any charge for water under any guise.

I have been nominated to the Oireachtas Committee On Water Services. I will be resisting these recommendations. I will also be organising and participating in mass marches against the implementation of these recommendations.

 The money which is being paid and was being paid for water services through taxation for many years was not used for water services but was given to others and is being spent for other purposes. It is being used to fund part of the 7 Billion in interest being paid annually on money borrowed to bail out banks and billionaire bondholders. It is also being used partly to fund the 172 million reductions of personal taxes on the top 5% of income recipients on an average of 186,000Eu per year.

The 172 million tax reduction must be cancelled. A tax on the Financial Assets of the top 10% whose financial assets are now 35 billion above peak boom level could be used to fully fund water services.

Water charges and Irish water Must Be fully abolished.

Domestic water must not be commodified.     We will not pay Twice  

Seamus Healy TD   087-2802199



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