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Irish Water and water charges must now be scrapped

Sinn Féin Councillor Maurice Quinlivan has said that reports that Eurostat has rejected plans to keep Irish Water off balance sheet is a major blow to the government.

Quinlivan said “Now that the government’s whole argument against Sinn Féin’s plan to abolish Irish Water is gone, it is time for the government to scrap Irish Water and with it the unfair water charges.

Cllr. Quinlivan said: “Sinn Féin’s view has always been that the government’s entire rationale for Irish Water was flawed.  We argued that it was simply a device to enable the Government to charge people for their water.

“The Government view that Irish water could be kept off the state’s balance sheet was fundamentally flawed for a number of reasons which Sinn Féin stated at the time.

“The supposed and clearly misnamed water conservation grant is nothing more than a transfer from government to Irish Water via households, a transfer which means this money would be likely to be deemed by Eurostat as expenditure by the government to Irish Water.

“Eurostat rules are that a company must be fully functional for a number of years before it can go off balance sheet.

“Also the expected continued large level of non-payment means that the government’s figures simply do not add up.  The money put into Irish Water by government must be less than what is returned by its customers which is also not the case. The current high non-payment level means that the cost of the Water Conservation Grant and its administration costs will exceed the money returned in domestic water charges.

“Today’s Eurostat announcement should come as no surprise to anyone, Sinn Féin expected this decision as the government had already failed the Eurostat Test when it tried to put €240million into Irish Water off balance sheet in 2013 and it was told that this money must be on balance sheet. Today’s ruling has proved Sinn Féin’s analysis correct.  The government is now left exposed to ridicule as it argued time and again that its plan would pass the Eurostat test.

“As a result of this Eurostat ruling all borrowing by Irish Water is now deemed as government borrowing yet Irish Water has borrowings of €850 million which can rise to €2 billion, mostly from commercial sources at rates higher than what the government is paying for its borrowings.  This is simply money down the drain.

“The whole argument against Sinn Féin’s call to abolish Irish Water is now gone.  The Government should listen to the people and accept defeat, they should scrap Irish Water and water charges once and for all.

“If the government continues with its plan to charge for water and to keep Irish Water off balance sheet it will need to scrap the water conservation grant or increase charges.  Either way it will be the customer that pays and the public must be made aware of this.”