The shape of water charges to come December 6, 2016Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
The SBP had a not unuseful overview of water charges in its most recent print edition. Mary Regan of UTV noted how contentious the issue had become for Fine Gael, how it has indeed ‘shaped the unusual political landscape that we are left with today. From early 2014, it awakened a protest movement out of what had until then been a sleepy compliance to austerity measures’. I’m not sure that’s entirely accurate, the LPT certainly exercised minds and feet – but one major problem with the LPT was that it didn’t cover sufficient people. Whereas water? Its ubiquity is surely a major feature. And she notes that it wasn’t just FG, FF ‘backed away from its previous commitment to water charges, made under duress of the troika in 2010’.
And FG, being the ones to introduce the mechanisms for collection and indeed the structure of the charges in more concrete form now see them, as she puts it, ‘etched on the party more than any others’. They own them. But they don’t much like them. A dead cat indeed in the path of their political progress. Actually no one much likes them. Something that commentators tend to seem loath to acknowledge.
But the discussion has, in a way, moved on. For as she also notes ‘the division [is] over whether to return money to those who already paid charges or to chase up those who have not paid.’
And this isn’t a small thing. She writes that 989,000 households have paid. That’s close to €162m collected But what of those who haven’t? Apparently half of all FG parliamentarians are of the view that its better to refund those who paid and move on. But as to who makes the decision to do that – it’s back to the Oireachtas committee. Hard-working that will be, one way or another. And with a result in March of next year. Perhaps. Regan suggests that that’s not sufficient time to clear the issue in advance of the next election. I’m not so sure. I think the polls being what they are and the sense that there’s a political stasis will probably inflect decisions not to run for quite some time to come. But, we’ll see.
Meanwhile Hugh O’Connell in the same paper argues that ‘senior FF sources say a charge with generous allowances would be acceptable’. What’s interesting about that is that FF appears to positioning itself – at least rhetorically, to the right of FG. Barry Cowen said that “I welcome the fact that the expert commission have acknowledged the failure and unfairness of the existing regime” but that’s that regime, the next one is a different matter. What is the gameplay there? A sense that if the economic situation improves they’ll be able to wave it through with the public three or four years down the line?
By the way one point made by O’Connell flies in the face of other rhetoric we’ve heard re waste.
Despite all this [problems with the water delivery system] Irish people use water frugally with domestic water consumption relatively low at 123 litres per capita, compared to 140 litres per capita in Britain.