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A Ballina councillor has accused Irish Water of “hoodwinking” the farming and business community, with its newly imposed charges on water meters.
Councillor John O’Hara says that the utility company some years ago, asked farmers to install additional meters on each section of their dispersed farms on the premise that they were necessary to detect leakages.
Now, the company is sending the same farmers letters advising them that they will now have to pay a 60 euro annual charge on each meter installed.
Some farmers in this region now have in excess of 10 such meters on their land, councillor O’Hara claims.
In addition Irish Water is telling farmers and businesses that it will use 2019 as its base line, and increase water charges by a third next year (2022) and an additional third in 2023.
He raised his concerns at the monthly meeting of Mayo County Council and he called again on Irish Water to come before councillors and explain its hike in charges.
His motion was unanimously supported.
In addition he says the water charges being imposed on schools are unfair. He said a principal, of a 12 pupil school, had contacted him recently concerned that the school’s water bill at 200 euro this year, will go to 500 euro in 2023, under these new charges.
Midwest News Editor Teresa O’Malley asked councillor O’Hara if he thinks Irish Water will send a representative to address Mayo County Council to outline the new charges and listen to councillors’ concerns
Midwest News contacted Irish Water for a response and the company issued a statement in which it pointed out that it had provided an update for councillors on the new charges last month and claimed no councillors attended the update -
Irish Water’s councillor clinics ensure we keep Mayo’s elected representatives briefed on key events within their area and allow us to support and respond to any queries they may have on behalf of their constituents. In the latter half of this year, Mayo Councillor Clinics were held on 12 July, 11 October and 8 November. Following a request from councillors in Mayo for an update on the non-domestic tariffs, Irish Water organised a bespoke presentation on the new tariff framework at the clinic on the 11 October. However, no councillors attended the update. We continue to share information on all changes with them on request and remain committed to updating all elected representatives on Irish Water projects including tariffs.
The rest of the statement read...
A new non-domestic tariff framework for Irish Water’s business customers went live on Friday 1 October 2021. The decision to confirm the 1 October for implementation was taken by our economic regulator, the Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU) in March with the support of Irish Water and the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage. The changes were originally due to go live on 1 May 2020 but were deferred to 1 May 2021 and again to 1 October 2021 due to the uncertainty for businesses under the essential Government public health guidelines due to COVID-19.
Irish Water’s aim is to ensure that every business across the country is provided with a clear, transparent, equitable charging regime regardless of location. Previously, there were over 500 different tariffs, with customers in different local authority areas paying different charges. There had been no change to charges since 2014 and in many cases much longer. The new framework standardises charges across the country while recovering the cost of providing water and wastewater services to non-domestic customers.
We wrote to all business customers to outline what the changes meant for them. The vast majority of customers will see either a decrease or an increase of less than €250 per annum, in their annual bills. In Co Mayo, there are approximately 10,000 non-domestic users/ connections and the new framework provides certainty for those users. As part of the new structure, almost half of the connections in County Mayo will see a decrease in their annual bill
For customers who will face larger increases in their annual bill, Irish Water has put in place a number of important support measures. Connections that see an increase of €250 or more will be transitioned to the new tariffs over three years. For connections that will face an increase of €750 or more, we automatically apply a 10% cap to their annual bill increase in any one year. Throughout this process, both Irish Water and the CRU have examined international best practice and consulted with representative groups and individual businesses across the country. This approach has greatly helped in developing charges that are clear, simple, and fair to all.
Irish Water is encouraging businesses to visit www.water.ie where they can assess the impact of the new charges on their bills using our online calculator tool available on water.ie. Further information is also available online including a detailed Q&A and case studies. Customers who may be experiencing billing or payment difficulties can contact our dedicated business team on 0818 778 778 / International +353 1 707 2827. Lines open Mon-Fri, 9am-5:30pm.