Wednesday, 4 March 2015
Water Charges Administration
8. To ask the Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government if he will reassure tenants that their landlords, including local authorities, are not going to become debt collectors for Irish Water; and, in particular, if he will provide assurances that additional charges will not be added to local authority tenants in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9077/15]
In the past few weeks Ms Elizabeth Arnett, spokesperson for Irish Water, has indicated that it has been cleared by the Data Protection Commissioner to seek the names of tenants from private landlords and local authorities to pursue people for the non-payment of water charges. Will the Minister confirm that this is the case and that landlords and local authorities will become debt collectors and boot boys for Irish Water? When can we expect legislation from the Government on this issue and the mooted plans to get people to pay?
Since 1 January 2014, Irish Water has statutory responsibility for all aspects of water services planning, delivery and operation at national, regional and local levels. It is the occupier of a property who is liable to pay domestic water charges and legislation provides that the owner is the occupier, unless the contrary is proven. Irish Water is providing landlords with the opportunity to prove they are not the occupier by providing the tenant’s name or tenants' names. I am sure the Deputy has heard and seen the various advertisements on radio and television in this regard. This will allow Irish Water to contact a tenant to complete the registration and bill him or her. The tenant will have to register with Irish Water to avail of the water conservation grant or have lower charges than the default capped charge, €260, where he or she is a single adult occupant or his or her metered usage is less than the maximum charge.
My Department is consulting the local government sector, social housing providers and landlord and tenant representatives in the course of drafting legislation to give effect to measures proposed for tenants and unpaid water charges. Further details of the modalities involved will be available on publication of the draft legislation following Government approval and the completion of the necessary consultations with relevant representative organisations. It is important that consultations be held with the various organisations involved. Once they are concluded, I will firm up the dates for the ensuing legislative process.
It is anything but a straight answer. It is all gibberish, with no clear-cut answers.
Since the Minister referred to the advertisements, will he enlighten us on how much Irish Water is spending on them? How much is it spending on public relations companies? How many public relations consultants has it employed? That is another expense leeching off the crippled taxpayer.
After all the multifaceted, sustainable and front-loaded consultation, what is the Minister proposing to do about this matter? A massive demonstration will take place on 21 March which will put to bed the notion that the campaign against water charges is declining. There will be tens of thousands of people on the streets. Many of them, the ones who cannot pay, not just those who will not pay, will be council tenants and people living in private rented accommodation on low incomes who already cannot pay bills. They want to know if the Government will have landlords and local authorities acting as boot boys, demanding with the threat of pay-ins, that they pay the hated water charges.
I had to do with the Christian Brothers educating me, as they did fantastically. The Deputy is well aware of the penalties in place for those who do not pay the €30 or €60 in water charges. They have been trashed out enough times across the floor of the Chamber. For those who will continue not to pay, it is not right to insinuate that local authorities will become boot boys in any way. As the Minister in charge of local authorities, I find that charge inappropriate and unfair. The legislation, following consultation, will be drafted, put to the Government and brought before the Houses. It is as simple as that.
Talk about the pot calling the kettle black. It is unbelievable. It is this flowery gibberish that glosses over the straight answers the people want.
Of course, the local authorities do not want to act as boot boys. They were rifled for all of their assets which were then handed to Irish Water. Does the Minister intend to make the local authorities and private landlords the boot boys of Irish Water in demanding payment, possibly through increasing rents or whatever other methods they will be asked to deploy against hard-pressed tenants to collect the ill-gotten gains of Irish Water? What is the Minister’s proposal in that regard? We know that landlords and the local authorities do not want to do it. We also know that people do not want to pay these hated charges.
They are matters for Irish Water. The Deputy cannot expect me to come into the House and know the exact cost of every single advertisement placed by Irish Water.
The process will be that consultation will take place, the legislation will then be brought to the Government and before the Houses, like in all other circumstances. Decisions on the mechanisms to be put in place to ensure people will pay their bills - everyone must be treated the same - will also be put through this House. This will be the process in the current discussions. When the decisions are made, I will bring the mechanisms before the House. That is straight up.