Dáil debates

Wednesday, 4 October 2006

1:00 pm

Photo of Dick RocheDick Roche (Minister, Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government; Minister of State, Department of An Taoiseach; Wicklow, Fianna Fail)

The Deputy has referred to schemes which are not the subject of his question.

I will deal with the water services pricing policy and specifically with the point made by the Deputy about Feakle, Quilty and Scarriff. When the preliminary reports for Feakle, Quilty and Scarriff were approved in 2000 and contract documents were received in late 2004, it appeared on the basis of the information available in the Department from the Deputy's county council, that the cost per existing house in Feakle would be €33,134, €18,587 in Scarriff and a massive €56,410 in Quilty. The Deputy well knows that a householder could provide a proprietary single house treatment plant for a fraction of those figures. It would have been a disgrace to proceed with such a scheme. This House and the Committee of Public Accounts would have been justified in asking the Minister of the day how a scheme costing €56,000 per house was agreed to. We have a responsibility to tend to the interests of the taxpayers as well as the interests of the residents of those areas.

I am surprised at the Deputy's response because the news I have given him today is extraordinarily positive. In the case of Quilty, Feakle and Scarriff we have made extraordinary progress in containing costs.

It is not conceivable that the Deputy could come to the House and expect any Minister, irrespective of whom the Minister was, to stand over a scheme costing €56,000 per house to make a connection. This would be grotesquely unfair to taxpayers.

With regard to the water services pricing policy, reports are calculated at the proportion of the capital cost of the infrastructure which must be paid by the non-domestic sector if it is charged on a country-wide basis as part of the non-domestic consumers' water services charges. We do not apply water charges on the domestic sector.

To simplify the process, a standard percentage contribution will now be applied to schemes where the non-domestic capital contribution has yet to be determined. This is fair and reasonable for the county councils because it is very difficult for them to deal comprehensively with the contribution or with the take up from the non-domestic sector. This approach obviates the need for elaborate water services pricing policy reports which are costly, which take a lot of time to prepare and which are contentious by their very nature. This course of action could still be the final solution. However, in the case in question, a group of schemes which were tied up in red tape for years have now been released. I think a smidgen of support from the Deputy's side of the House in recognition of this would not be uncalled for. I accept his frustration that these schemes were tied up, considering the schemes for Feakle, Quilty and Scarriff were first approved in 2000 and the contract documents arrived in the Department in 2004. I suggest if the Deputy has a query about that period he should address it in Ennis, not in Dáil Éireann.

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