Irish Republic to poll on public ownership

The government of the Irish Republic has agreed to hold a referendum to ensure water services remain in public ownership.

That move will be underpinned by legislation due to be published on 22 September which will discontinue the current domestic water charging regime.

The Bill will provide for a general tax to fund domestic water services. Households will be charged for excessive use of water from January 2019 if found to have used 70 per cent more than the average household.

Ireland’s Commission for Energy Regulation will be responsible for determining average consumption levels. The commission will also agree the financial penalty applied to householders after they reach this limit. The Bill will provide for future governments to increase that figure following a vote in the Irish parliament.

It is estimated that up to 70,000 households – about 8 per cent of customers – will face fines under the new system. These households are currently using 30 per cent of all domestic water.

In terms of Irish Water, the Bill approved by Cabinet will commit to an annual budget for the utility from the Department of Housing. The department will be asked to find the €240 million in lost revenue from the abolishing of charges, and will also be asked to provide capital funding to Irish Water.