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20 December 2007 Edition

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School water charges idea must be abandoned

A government climbdown this week on water charges for schools in the 26 Counties will merely result in a two-year exemption.
Bertie Ahern announced the u-turn after Department of the Environment officials told an Oireachtas committee that flat-rate bills were impractical because costs varied in different counties.
Speaking at the Education committee meeting, Sinn Féin Education Spokesperson Senator Pearse Doherty, called on Environment Minister John Gormley to abandon plans to charge schools for water saying many school’s budgets are already under strain.
“We currently have the farcical situation where the Minister says he is pushing ahead with his plans to charge schools for their water while his Government and party colleague Paul Gogarty, chair of the Education Committee is saying that he will do all that he can to ensure the charges will not be imposed. Meanwhile Dick Roche has strongly refuted the Minister’s claim that the charges are part of an EU directive. I am calling on the Minister to abandon this plan and look at more imaginative ways of preserving water”, he said.
“Everyone accepts that measures are necessary to preserve water supply and quality. However, charges on non commercial users such as schools will impose considerable extra costs and strain on the educational budget.
“Given that much of the cost of this will ultimately come from public funding, there are surely more efficient ways of encouraging better water use. Perhaps by requiring that publicly funded buildings such as schools install water saving devices. Certainly simply requiring that they pay for water from budgets that are already under severe strain seems to make little sense, either from a financial or a conservation point of view”, Doherty said
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