Irish politicians strike last minute deal on charges which may usher in bills

Irish political parties Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil have finally agreed to a last-minute deal on the future of water charges. Fianna Fáil made several substantial concessions during the final stages of the Oireachtas committee consideration of the earlier independent review of the highly politicised issue.

The deal included a commitment to install water meters in new builds, a charge for excessive use and a “per household” allowance for average usage, which reflects Fine Gael’s key demands.

The last-minute changes came after senior counsel to the committee proposed several alterations to the committee’s final report. The legal opinion said a metering programme and a charge for excessive usage were required under European law. Some TDs complained the decision to introduce an allowance per household could enable water charges to be introduced by the back door.

The deal broadly reflected an agreement reached by Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael earlier this month but which threatened to unravel in recent days. The final recommendations in the report include refunds for householders who paid their water charges, funding of domestic water services through general taxation, and the installation of meters at blocks of flats.

Excess usage will be 70 per cent above the average household use and the average will be set at 133 litres per person per day.

The committee agreed that the Water Services Act 2007 would be amended to impose levies on householders who waste water, rather than fines.

The government now has one month to bring forward legislation to implement the report.