Serious Questions Remain Over Hogan’s Water Charges Regime
Serious questions remain over the Government’s water charges regime and the long term implications for taxpayers and for social welfare recipients.
“I welcome the fact that Fine Gael and Labour have finally been forced to come clean on aspects of Minister Phil Hogan’s water charges plans.
“Labour in particular has been doing its utmost to avoid telling households how much they will have to pay for their water ahead of the local and European elections. The Government’s hand has now been forced ahead of a Fianna Fáil Private Members Motion in the Dáil this week, which demands an end to the secrecy surrounding the water charges regime.
“However several questions remain. We still do not have a specific figure for what people will pay. All the Government has been able to produce are average costs. Minister Hogan has not outlined any major investment in the water network. He gave no guarantee that families who fork out hundreds of euro a year for their water will get a decent quality service. It’s still a case that despite the tens of millions of taxpayers’ money pumped into setting up Irish Water, not a cent has gone on fixing a leaky pipe or addressing serious problems with water quality in certain areas.
“Secondly, the range of concessions outlined today will take an estimated €40 million from the social protection budget. This raises alarm bells about the impact on other key social welfare supports. This Government has already slashed child benefit, cut range of supports for people with disabilities and their carers and targeted young job seekers. The Government needs to spell out exactly where this €40 million is coming from. We need a guarantee that it will not result in more sneaky cuts to people who most need support.
“There is also confusion surrounding the water charges for the 1 million households that will still be without meters when charges kick in; in October. Despite an ‘accelerated’ metering programme, the fact is that more than half of the houses in the country will still be without a meter at the end of this year. Whatever way the Government spins it, this means flat rate charges for hundreds of thousands of households for at least the first year.
“This Government has a terrible track record when it comes to cutting household benefits packages. I am concerned that the commitment to water allowances for children and a cap on charges for people with special needs is a very short term commitment to salvage votes for Fine Gael and Labour in the upcoming local and European elections. It is crucial that the Government clears up the remaining confusion over its water charges regime now so that all households know exactly where they stand.”
Pearse Doherty TD to launch Sinn Féin local election campaign
Sinn Féin’s Finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty TD will visit Kerry today to launch the party’s local election campaign in the county. He will be accompanied by Ireland South EU candidate Liadh Ní Riada and together they will take part in a number of engagements and to canvass with the party’s local election candidates in Tralee, Killarney and Killorglin.
Deputy Doherty will meet with the Tralee Chamber Alliance at 10am to discuss issues of concern to local businesses. He will then visit Recovery Haven along with Liadh Ní Riada.
Following a canvass of Tralee Town Centre they will travel to Killarney to canvass with local election candidate John Buckley and then onto Killorglin to do some campaigning with Damian Quigg.
Later on that evening he will officially launch Sinn Féin’s local election campaign at a party rally in the Meadowlands Hotel in Tralee.
Property Tax Housing Estates Proposals from Cllr. Anne McEllistrim
Local residential estates in Kerry should be provided with new funding over the next five years to tackle local issues under a new financing plan proposed by local Fianna Fáil candidate Cllr. Anne McEllistrim.
The plan would essentially ring fence up to 10% of the total Property Tax paid in each estate or road for essential works that are required in each area. Key local issues such as poor lighting, removing prominent graffiti, addressing potholes and road maintenance, tackling anti-social behaviour in alleyways, upkeep of green areas and upkeep of social housing in each estate would be identified as areas which would be tackled by this funding.
Cllr. McEllistrim commented: “The scheme would enable local Resident Committees across Kerry to apply for funding to outline the key issues in their area which need to be tackled. It would include the likely cost, the proposed suppliers subject to a tender process and the feedback from local residents on why they want these issues tackled.
“In real terms, this would be a localised capital programme for residential estates similar to the Sports Capital Grant Scheme but at a local level. It would address problems which Resident Associations tackle or do not have funding for at the moment from Kerry County Council. It would also empower these voluntary committees to develop and better their own areas rather than depending on the County Council.
“The basic premise of the plan is that the substantial Property Tax, which these estates will be paying in 2014, should be used to service the very areas it is collected from.”
Cllr. McEllistrim concluded: “I believe that we need to look at politics at every level in a different way and approach what we as public representatives want to achieve in a different way. People need to be empowered to get the issues that affect them tackled and I believe that a scheme like this would be a good first step in getting the people and issues that matter to them addressed.
“I am hopeful that this proposal will be fully supported by all other local candidates going for election in Kerry as it is my full intention to ensure this funding is put in place for local estates and roads in the county as a whole.
Water Services Relocating to Castleisland – Cllr. Bobby O’Connell
A bit of good news comes the way of the town courtesy of Cllr. Bobby O’Connell. Cllr. O’Connell has been banging away at the ‘Waste of Space’ drum and drawing attention to the lack of use of huge areas of the local Area Services Centre or ‘The New Library’ as it is better known locally.
“I’m glad to report that the Kerry Water Services it to move its headquarters to Castleisland and bringing up to 15 jobs with it. Local people who are working in the service will have the advantage of being able to do so at home in their own town and those from beyond will be a welcome addition to the business life of the town,” said Cllr. O’Connell.
In fairness to him, Cllr. O’Connell has been making an issue of the vast amounts of space in the fine, new offices being turned into a warehouse for boxes of files from Tralee over the past few years.
I always believed that the building should be used to its full potential for the benefit of the town. The library itself is of huge benefit to the people of the area and it is only right that the remainder of the space should be used in a similarly beneficial way. It took us long enough to get it here,” said Cllr. O’Connell.
Government Cuts Cards from 4 out of 10 People in Three Years – Niall Kelleher
Niall Kelleher the first-time Fianna Fáil candidate for the local elections in the Killarney Electoral Area, has expressed alarm at the figures obtained from the Government about cuts to the discretionary medical card.
The figures were obtained by Niall Kelleher from his party colleague and Fianna Fáil spokesperson on Health Billy Kelleher T.D. in parliamentary questions to the Minister for Health.
“The figures released to my party colleague and Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Health Billy Kelleher show that nationally the number of discretionary medical cards has now fallen below 50,000 to 49,596. What this means is that over the past 3 years the government has taken away more than 30,000 of these cards, a reduction of 38.4%”, said Niall Kelleher.
“What we do know for a fact, is that last year the HSE set a target for 2013 to reduce the number of discretionary medical cards and this deliberate targeting was approved by Health Minister James Reilly in the 2013 HSE Service Plan” said Niall Kelleher.
“Access to a discretionary medical card is essential for people who find themselves with a serious illness. For many people a serious illness is not just a personal strain but a serious financial strain. I can’t see how the Government and their T.D’s, Senators and Council Candidates can stand over a decision to deliberately target people in clinical need of such cards. It is nothing short of a disgrace” said Niall Kelleher.
“Where is the compassion gone? Has it been swept away in the hubris of the massive majority that Fine Gael and Labour have in the Oireachtas, and they feel like they are untouchable. The have to stop their targeting of those with discretionary medical cards so as to ensure that no-one in serious clinical need is denied one. They must stop adding to the trauma of already sick people, by piling on financial ruin onto them too” concluded Niall Kelleher.