Thursday, 5 March 2020
Department of Housing, Planning, and Local Government
1236. To ask the Minister for Housing, Planning, and Local Government the status of the reform of water services including the creation of a single utility and a referendum to enshrine water in public ownership. [3485/20]
The broad policy context for the development of water services is set out in the Water Services Policy Statement 2018-2025, as published in May 2018 following the approval of Government. This includes the ongoing transformation process to position Irish Water as the single, publicly owned national water services authority, accountable to the Oireachtas. Related to this process, the Government decided in July 2018 that Irish Water would be separated from the Ervia Group during 2023.
In this context, Irish Water has proposed fully integrating its operations and ending the current operational arrangements for the delivery of water services through service level agreements with local authorities. As this proposal will give rise to significant organisational change for local authorities and their staff, the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) has been tasked with facilitating engagement between the key stakeholders, namely, Irish Water / Ervia; ICTU and relevant affiliated unions (Forsa, SIPTU, Connect and UNITE); and the County and City Management Association / Local Government Management Agency.
Three interlinked elements have been identified which the new arrangements must address:
(a) To provide Irish Water with the necessary control of operations, accountability and capacity to manage risk and communicate and negotiate with all water services workers on the change agenda and provide a single identity for customer facing services;
(b) To ensure that Irish Water is not left without an appropriate skilled workforce to carry out its statutory functions and local authorities are not left with stranded costs; and,
(c) To address the concerns of workers in relation to the future deployment of the current local authority water staff.
The formal engagement under the WRC commenced in February 2019 and three formal meetings and a number of bilateral meetings have been held to date.
There are also constitutional and governance issues that are of interest and relevant to the future provision of water services in Ireland. These matters have been discussed with relevant stakeholders in different strands of dialogue outside of the WRC process and will be a matter for a new Government and Oireachtas to progress.