Drowning In Delusion

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Irish Water’s Elizabeth Arnett

Before Alan Kelly’s bruising appearance [on RTÉ Radio One’s Today with Sean O’Rourke] Elizabeth Arnett, head of communications at Irish Water spoke to Gavin Jennings on Morning Ireland.

Some morning, in fairness.

Gavin Jennings:“Elizabeth Arnett, less than half of households have paid up, do you accept that a clear majority have now said no to water charges?”

Elizabeth Arnett: “Well I think we’re six weeks in to the billing process for water services and to date 675,000 households are paying, which means that two million people woke up this morning, turned on their tap and flushed their toilet and they’re paying for that service.
It’s 46% of the revenue we targeted for this first quarter of billing so clearly we do have work to do, but I will say that 12 weeks in with no reminders having been sent out that we are very much in line with the expectations as to where we thought we would be at this point in time. UK utilities, which have been sending out water charges bills for over 20 years have on average a 3 month waiting period before customers pay their bill, that’s the average time 20 years into their billing process; we’re 12 weeks in we have sent no reminders and we have 46% of the revenue in. Now it’s a solid start, but clearly we have to move forward from here.”

Jennings: “A solid start? Less than 1/2 of people have paid, a clear majority have rejected water charges. Do you accept that?”

Arnett: “I don’t accept that this is an indication of a rejection. I think that 12 weeks in with no reminders issued to people, no sanctions….”

Jennings:“No reminders?”

Arnett: “No reminders issued.”

Jennings: “Representatives of your company or indeed from the government have been on national radio and television regularly over the last couple of months reminding people when they had to pay their water charges.”

Arnett: “Well let me tell you what utility companies do, that may be what governments do but when they issue bills to customers they also follow up with reminders and utility experience will tell us that reminders are what drives people to pay and what drives increases to pay. We didn’t issue any reminders as part of this billing cycle, in fact we know that up to 5% of our customers didn’t actually receive bills because we don’t have their information and taking that mitigating factor into account we’re almost half way where we needed to be and where we expected to be This is the first time this charge has been issued as a bill and the first time people have received this and over the last 12 weeks we’ve taken 140,000 phone calls from our customers engaging with us about the bill, to understand it, to get into the process of paying the bill. It does take time for new charges to bed down and we accept that and we have put in place from the outset financial facilities to ensure that we are fully funded by 2015 because we expect to be here.”

Jennings:“How many did you expect to pay by the end of the first billing period?”

Arnett: “Well it’s very difficult to put a figure on this because this is the first time.”

Jennings: “Did you have an expectation?”

Arnett: “No, because this is the first time. What we did expect that we wouldn’t have everyone paying, and that we needed to have a facility put in place…”

Jennings: Did you have a target?

Arnett:
“No. We haven’t a target specifically set for the first bill. What we have is by 2015 a target of €271 million from domestic customers.”

Jennings: “Of which you have €30 million by the end of June?”

Arnett: “The first billing cycle has yielded 30.5 million and we do expect that figure will increase as we send the second bill as we send reminders and as we increase the normal utility bill cycle over cycles 3 and 4 we do expect that number to increase.”

Jennings: ‘Why do you think that less than 1/2 of people have paid?”

Arnett: “Well, I think the first thing I would say is to thank those people who have paid, and the first thing I would say is that there will always be an issue in terms of people who cannot pay and will not pay or won’t pay. For those people who cannot pay there is a very important message today, this bill, the maximum you owe today is 64 Euros 11 cents, the minimum payment we will take today, from any day, is 5 Euros, so now is the time to take control of that bill.
The conservation grant – and 1.4 million households have registered for that, 1.1 of which are Irish Water customers, will be paid in September and that can be used to help reduce the bill, 4 out of 10 people who have a meter are paying, are billed substantially less than the 64.10 or the 40 Euros, so for those people conserving water with a meter and using the facilities that are available that’s the message to them, for those people who will not pay there’s an important message here, nobody this morning is saying we don’t need to invest in water services, that we don’t need to address the 49% leaks, that we don’t need to lift boiled water notices as we have in Roscommon recently, that we don’t need to address the head room or the lack of waste water treatment in 44 towns, we need to invest in water services, domestic revenue is giving us an opportunity to do that.”

Jennings: “For those who haven’t paid and who receive their next bill in the next couple of months, it’s going to be double, isn’t it, because it will be for two billing periods, but if they don’t pay, they don’t pay the next one and they don’t pay the fourth one it won’t be, correct me if I’m wrong, until the 5th one that they incur a penalty?”

Arnett:
“That’s Correct.”

Jennings: “Of what? 60 Euros”

Arnett: “60 Euros on the two adult household charge, which is a 260 Euro annual bill, and 30 Euros on the one adult household charge…”

Jennings: “So if I fail to pay the first one, the second one, the third one, the fourth one, we’ll be after a general election at that stage, so you’re not going to cut off my water and you’re not going to come after me for any money?”

Arnett: “We will not be cutting off services but we will be seeking payment as any normal utility will do. If there’s four bills outstanding additional charges will apply we don’t want to be collecting additional charges from people we want to be collecting charges for the services that we are providing, notwithstanding that additional charges will apply and there are additional measures then available.”

Jennings: “So if I don’t pay this bill my second bill my third bill or my fourth bill you won’t do anything?”

Arnett: “Oh, we will be contacting customers seeking payment.”

Jennings: “But I’ll still get my water without having paid for it?”

Arnett: “You’ll still get your water.”

Jennings:“Will I still get my grant?”

Arnett: “The grant is a separate process it’s been very well publicised and I think you do know I’ve actually said this to you in the studio before, I think you do know that you do”

Jennings: “Oh.”


Arnett:
“The conservation grant is available for registration it’s not linked to payment it’s linked to registration and its available to those people who have been paying for water services by providing their own well and septic tank and it’s available to Irish water customers. It’s not linked to payment it’s linked to registration.”

Jennings: “So just to be clear, if I don’t pay this bill, my second bill, my third bill and my fourth bill, I’ll continue to receive water, I pay any any penalties and I’ll still get 100 Euro from the government.”

Arnett: “Yes, that’s the position but 72% of customers have registered with Irish water one point one million of our customers have already registered with us, 46% of the Revenue is in and we start bill cycle 2 from here.”

Jennings: “If I don’t incur any penalty for not paying my first, second third or fourth bill and I get 100 Euros from the Government, why would I change my mind why would more than half of households who haven’t paid their water bill change their mind.”

Arnett:“Because our water services are failing today.”

Jennings: “But you’re fully funded into next year.”

Arnett:
“In terms of leakage, in terms of capacity of water supply in terms of risk of water supply and in terms of waste water. So we have to do things differently. The domestic revenue stream gives us the opportunity to leverage additional funding from capital markets in order to improve the network, no one is disputing that today, no one is coming on Morning Ireland this morning saying we don’t need to address…”

Jennings:“You’re not short of money for this year”

Arnett: “As always the funding is still there and we have a revenue stream from non-domestic customers, let’s not forget that when non domestic charges were introduced level of compliance was lower than now we have that revenue stream we have the domestic charge revenue, we have subvention from government, debt from government.”

Jennings: “So you don’t need..”

Arnett: “We absolutely do need ,the provision is a working capital facility, in order to manage cash flow a new business starting up will always put that facility in place because there is always a lag phase between the time you send your first bill and the time you get paid, any new start-up company will understand that so you put in place a working capital facility it’s an interest bearing loan so we have to pay it back…”

Jennings: “Are you going to spend more money on advertising to convince the other half of households who haven’t paid yet?”

Arnett: “The first thing we will do in terms of billing is we will send out the second bill, we know from utility eperience that when second bills arrive people start paying.”

Jennings: “Are you going to spend more on advertising”

Arnett: “We will be communicating to people…”

Jennings: “How much have you spent on advertising so far?”

Arnett:“As part of the previous campaign we spent over 600,000 on advertising.”

Jennings: “How much more are you going to spend?”

Arnett:
“I haven’t finalised the budget but we will be communicating…”

Jennings: “But you are going to spend more”

Arnett:“Yes, we will be communicating on all of the issues People have to understand this is a charge for a service and I think that’s an important message, we are providing water and waste water services and we need to invest and improve and provide good communication to everybody.”

Jennings: “Do you think the sanctions should be higher?”

Arnett: “No, I think actually if you take a sensible view, this this is a new charge for people and it’s on top of what has come at us in the previous years its’ not a popular charge, we accept that, and it is going to take time for this to bed down, people have to get used to managing this as part of their household budget and I think it’s reasonable that time frame for people do do that and I think what to say to people is to take control of that now, the most you’d owe us is 64.10, if you’re conserving, less than that, and what I would say is now is the time to engage with us…”

Jennings: “But if I don’t you’re not going to come on to me until the end of the 5th billing cycle?”

Arnett:“We add additional charges at the end of that but we are going to be reminding people to pay ,we do know from experience that does generate revenue.”

Jennings: “Elizabeth Arnett from Irish Water, thank you for speaking to us.”

Listen here (scroll down)

(RollingNews.ie)

70 thoughts on “Drowning In Delusion

  1. Hmmmph

    Have to laugh at this line.

    “over the last 12 weeks we’ve taken 140,000 phone calls from our customers engaging with us about the bill, to understand it, to get into the process of paying the bill”.

    I had to ‘engage’ with them about my bill. They got my details wrong 3 times.

    Dopes.

    1. Sue

      Exactly!

      I’ve engaged with them three times, because the 3 flats in the building have collectively received 10 bills.
      I have three bills, two in my name with three different account numbers. Absolute shambles. Oh, and it’s still not resolved.

    2. DD

      This line made me laugh:

      “there is always a lag phase between the time you send your first bill and the time you get paid, any new start-up company will understand that”.

      As if the chimps which run the farcical quango that is IW has any notion of the process of a starting a business in the real world.

      Already pay for water, not paying again.

  2. Bort

    Can someone explain this to me please? I registered, I got my first bill (unmetered) even though they installed a meter outside my house. My buddy next door didn’t register-got no bill, my buddy on the other side registered but got no bill. Our pal across the road got a bill but is refusing to pay it? I’ll pay my next bill and my neighbors don’t. Will they ever have to pay to catch up with me. Will they owe arrears? Am I an idiot for paying? (Regardless of water being a god given right etc) I’m paying like a sucker but my neighbors are still getting free water.

    1. martco

      no you’re not a sucker, you’re just paying more tax than they are because you’re inclined to do what FG/LAB tell you to do

      if they are working and paying income tax they are already paying for water

    2. smolach

      over and over today i keep thinking of that interview Yanis Varoufakis gave during the week, especially the part

      “It’s not that it didn’t go down well – it’s that there was point blank refusal to engage in economic arguments. Point blank. … You put forward an argument that you’ve really worked on – to make sure it’s logically coherent – and you’re just faced with blank stares. It is as if you haven’t spoken. What you say is independent of what they say. You might as well have sung the Swedish national anthem – you’d have got the same reply. And that’s startling, for somebody who’s used to academic debate. … The other side always engages. Well there was no engagement at all. It was not even annoyance, it was as if one had not spoken.”

      this is the tactic been enforced by our own government, they point blank refuse to listen

  3. Jonotti

    It’s obvious that a majority will pay for their bills. That 47% is only going in one direction.

    1. Walter-Ego

      Obvious to who? People have taken a stand against this on principal that we already pay for our water and will not submit to a shakedown, no matter what type of bullying the government can think of. So better get used to the fact you are in the minority with the rest of the sheep.

      1. cluster's deranged alter ego

        Lookit – make whatever arguments you want about not paying water charges (and decent arguments do exist), but please, please, please stop with the nonsense that ‘we already pay for our water’.

        WE DO NOT ALREADY PAY FOR OUR WATER and we haven’t done so for decades.
        The system has been starved because we weren’t paying for it & aside from that, we are running a current account deficit.

        1. Atticus

          So where were the wages for all the County Councils coming from?

          Of course we were paying for it you gobdaw, it obviously isn’t enough or the money wasn’t managed properly, but that’s a different argument.

        2. Mark Dennehy

          cdae, we do already pay for our water.
          If someone else takes the money we pay for our water and uses it to pay for something else, and we have no control over that person because they’re state employees and we don’t run the state, then it’s a bit much to say that we did not pay for our water.
          It’s a lot more accurate to say that the state did not pay for our water with the money we gave them to pay for our water.

          But I guess that’s a bit longer to type.

          1. classter

            Fine but we never did raise enough money to pay for our long-term water supply.

            We still don’t.

            Currently we are not even raising enough money to pay for current expenditure (water included), never mind including for the longer-term investment needed.

            I support the introduction of water-charges (I’m disappointed that they have scaled back the consumption side of the charge) but I do accept that there are arguments against it. ‘We are paying twice’ just is not a valid argument because it really isn’t true.

            Me being a ‘gobdaw’ doesn’t change that.

    2. donkey_kong

      that 47% will on be going down. only the most fervent yes men will pay a second bill when they know their neighbours arent paying…

      after the next election there is a chance the charging will be stopped and general tax will pay for it. Good luck getting your payments refunded….

  4. Steve

    Ah I give up.

    I look forward to the day when bodger offers up an alternative system that promotes conservation, fairness, efficient investment and ministers staying out of those investment decisions

  5. Drogg

    Who are these people who have actually paid? am i the only person who doesn’t know anyone who is paying?

    1. Bort

      Me and plenty of other renters are paying for fear of rocking the boat with the landlord, not a good time to be annoying the ould landlord, if it was my own place no way I’d pay

      1. Drogg

        Thats poo Bort, landlords shouldn’t be able to go after you for not paying it is criminal that they can.

        1. Martin Heavy-Guy

          But they can not renew your lease, or take forever sorting out your broken washing machine.

        2. Bort

          Under my lease I have agreed to pay any bills connected to the property while I am a tenant, so I have to pay my electricity, gas, upc etc and I’ll be liable for any bill outstanding when I leave. I don’t see how water wouldn’t come under this.

          My biggest fear in life is that my landlord won’t renew my lease and I’ll have to go through the living hell that is looking for decent rented accommodation in Dublin.

          So I’ll be good little tenant and not rock the boat.

          1. Teralk

            I am renting I will not be paying for water this toxic quango will be gone soon enough beside how can I be billed without a contract even if I was brought to court I still cant be penalised I never signed to a contract there is simply non compliance.

          2. Atticus

            I’ve wondered about that alright. If you haven’t registered, so therefore you’ve no contract with the utility supplier, how can they apply an attachment order?
            They could find out who owns the property, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that’s the person responsible for paying the bill.

            Sounds like it could be another total mess.

        3. 15 cents

          its a slimey trick to get people to pay .. turn people on each other (landlords and tenants)

        1. Martin Heavy-Guy

          I wish that had been the attitude with most landlords. It should have been – it’s so often in this country that divide-and-conquer is strategically deployed, and the worst thing is that it works.

    2. Dirmius

      I haven’t paid and don’t intend to. But I am surrounded by people in my workplace who I know to have paid. In one case I asked why and he said he didn’t agree but he got a bill and he doesn’t feel right not paying his bills, a misplaced sense of duty I suppose.

    3. Atticus

      I moved out of rental accommodation recently and had to pay the last two bills out of my deposit. The bill was in the landlord’s name so didn’t bother registering.

      A guy I work with had to pay it on the request of his landlord. He registered and paid. Two weeks later he also got a TV Licence bill. He doesn’t have a TV, he’s not Irish so doesn’t bother with TV.

      1. ethereal_myst

        I got a TV Licence Bill recently, I called them and told them I do not have a TV connection and asked them to remove me from the database which they did….

    1. Walter-Ego

      Nope. I’m afraid that’s what you get for not taking a stand. Are you going to pay your second bill?

  6. Mr. T.

    “As part of the previous campaign we spent over 600,000 on advertising.”

    I’ll bet it was a hell of a lot more than that. €600K doesn’t buy you the amount of media they used never mind the creative fees.

  7. Dazzler

    Well everyone I have it on good information from someone working on these figures that the real figure is actually 29%. The Government and Irish Water have added 247,000 users to the figures that have private water supply.They will never pass the EU stress test.The company will close.They will never get to privatise our water.We already pay 1.2 billion already for water I am not paying again.

    1. swoon

      I would dearly love to share this but is there anyway you or I can verify this? Seriously,this music to my ears and probably many others.

    2. ollie

      H yes the Eurostat review that was due in April. 50% of revenue must come from direct billing.
      irish water is dead, arnett to the dole queue asap.

    3. swoon

      It is my opinion that the EU will give IW the stamp of approval despite any failing stress test.Enda and his crew are implementing this for the EU.It’s austerity dressed up as ‘conservation’.Future privitisation off all services is where europe is headed.It’s up to each and every one of us to resist this charge through non payment at the very least.
      To all people who believe we should pay I’d have to ask what are you doing to prevent your water supply becoming a privitised money making scam (Is it already?).Will you still stand behind IW when this happens .If the answer is no then you have join the Anti Water Charges movement before it’s too late.

  8. Paul

    What about the customers who’ve never registered..? Are they included in the figures here? Is it just that less than half of the people who have actually registered, still haven’t paid? Which would mean that there’s even more people who haven’t even registered or paid.

    Maybe it’s just me in rented accommodation, but I’ve never registered, and never received an bill etc. Won’t be paying either way.

    1. Meadville

      Well she states that 72% of the population have registered with IW, and of that percentage 46% have paid, so that’s what? 33% of the total population who have paid their Irish Water bill?

  9. waterbaby

    I registered with them last December and spent over an hour on the phone to them to guide them to the address, which is in the country. I was given a registration number but didn’t receive a bill. I phoned them up a couple of weeks ago and they said I’m not registered and that I would have to go through the process again. They said that my registration details may have deleted during the clean of data and deletion of PPS numbers. I don’t have the inclination to spend an hour going through the registration process again so I have had to FOI the phone call with my registration details.

  10. Paolo

    If people thought that they could walk out of the local SuperValu without paying for their shopping then I think you would be lucky to get 46% of people volunteering to pay.

    The Government simply has to enforce payment and people will comply.

    1. ABM's Bloodied Underwear

      “Some people are outraged. The vast, vast majority of people are not. Many people see the violent low-lifes who attend these Right2Water marches as a serious threat to our democracy. Despite dwindling numbers at the marches, their tactics are becoming more and more violent.

      The last thrashings of a desperate and dying rabid animal.”

      – Paolo

  11. LookingOn

    ‘in fact we know that up to 5% of our customers didn’t actually receive bills because we don’t have their information and taking that mitigating factor into account’

    So, a company which doesn’t have information on people can consider them as customers? Wait until the mobile phone companies (for instance) start looking up addresses from the Electoral Register, and start sending bills out to people that haven’t signed a contract with them. Or your local butcher doing the same.

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