HOUSEHOLD and water charges are an inevitability for everyone in the State, according to Minister Fergus O’Dowd.
The Louth Fine Gael TD made the comments in response to the concerns of Dundalk Widows’ Association chairperson Margaret Clarke at the recent Age Friendly Conference in the Fairways Hotel.
Speaking at last month’s gathering, Ms Clarke said: “There is great concern at the proposed rates on houses and water. Some of our group live on less than e200 a week and feel they will be unable to pay the rates on their home.
“I’d just ask that there are some concessions made for widows and pensioners,” she said.
However, Minister O’Dowd said there was no way around the charges unfortunately.
“When I was younger there was a value put on your home and you’d pay a charge based on that but since 1977 there has been no charge. The farmers tax went around the same time as well.
“The truth of the matter is though that last year we lost our economic sovereignty and when the IMF took over our accounts the state was spending e18 billion more on services than it was taking in in tax.
“In order to help combat that the IMF set out two conditions, firstly that there is a charge introduced on everyone’s home and secondly that we charge for water.
“The first will come in the next budget and at the moment there are two options, either a standard charge or a higher charge and waiver system. The exact method will be decided by the government.
“My job is not to fix the charge but to put in place a new company to install water meters. We’ll be starting that in January and it will take about three years to complete.
“There will be no charges until such time as homes have a meter. Each home will be given an allowance and you’ll only be charged then if you’re over it.
“These charges aren’t happening because we want them to but because they have to happen,” he said.