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Conservation grant unlikely to be deducted from water refunds

17 July 2017 00:01
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Conservation grant unlikely to be deducted from water refunds

Those who live in a household of more than one person will be entitled to €325

Householders are unlikely to have the €100 water conservation grant deducted from their water charge refunds when the process of reimbursing Irish Water customers begins in the autumn.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has confirmed that people who paid their bills are to have the money returned by the end of the year, but the method of repayment, which is expected to cost €170 million in total, has yet to be decided.

The process is likely to begin in October, but those who have moved home or changed address since the last payments were sought may not have their money returned by the end of the year. The Department of Housing believes this will prove to be a logistical nightmare and require additional time.

Householders who paid their five bills and lived alone will be entitled to €200. and those who live in a household of more than one person will be entitled to €325.

Government figures confirmed the water conservation grant, distributed by the Department of Social Protection, may not form part of the repayment scheme.

The €100 grant was introduced in 2015 in what some described as an attempt to entice people to sign up to the billing system. The then government insisted it aimed to encourage more considered use of water.

Both Mr Varadkar and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney have previously said they believe the €100 should be deducted from any repayment to those who paid their Irish Water bills.

However, it is understood the Department of Housing has been advised of potential difficulties in this regard due to assurances given to the European Commission that the grant and the charges were not associated.

More than 190,000 people claimed the grant but did not pay any of the five bills distributed by the water utility.

The cost of the refund scheme is not expected to impact on the budget for next year. An underspend in the Department of Social Protection due to falling numbers claiming jobseekers’ allowance is likely to be the source of the money.

Fianna Fáil has called for clarity on the process, and criticised the Taoiseach for announcing the details of the refunds scheme in an interview in the Sunday Independent.

The party’s housing spokesman Barry Cowen said the Oireachtas had compelled the Government into refunding householders.

“The Taoiseach is bound to implement the recommendations of the Oireachtas Committee on Water Charges. He is not refunding people for any other reason that the committee forced him into doing so. Therefore it is the Oireachtas that should have been informed of the process.

“The legislation was due before the summer break, and the Minister for Housing [Eoghan Murphy] advised us it was not ready and we accepted it. Two days later it is announced through the media.”


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