Tipperary councillors 'making too many complaints' to Irish Water

Members' anger at Irish Water email

Tipperary councillors are angry at an email they've received from Irish Water over the high number of complaints about water and sewerage problems the utility has received from them on behalf of constituents.

Councillors brought the email letter to the attention of Co. Council management at the local authority's monthly meeting in Clonmel last week.

They complained it inferred they were making too many representations on behalf of constituents and they should leave it to individual customers to contact Irish Water.

The email from Louise Hegarty of Irish Water's Local Representative Support Desk stated they had received a large volume of representations on behalf of its Tipperary customers in recent months and was looking at ways to improve its dedicated service for local representatives.

"We have examined the issues that had been raised and note that many of these items relate to blocked sewers, visible leaks and non-domestric billing queries," she outlined.

"In many cases there is a need for a number of communications back and forth with local representatives to identify the customer's address of obtain contact details which can lead to unnecessary delays."

She reminded councillors "complaints of this nature received directly from our customers are regularly and effectively dealt with through out Customer Contact Centre that operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1850 278 278".

Ms Hegarty then suggested councillors first ask constituents if they have raised their complaints directly with Irish Water.

She Irish Water would welcome any representation received on behalf of their customers if they are dissatisfied with the service they receive.

She pointed out that: "Irish Water guarantees to respond to customer complaints within 5 working days with a resolution or a plan for the steps required to achieve a resolution under normal conditions."

And if a customer was dissatisfied after completing the first step in the complaints process, there was "an agreed process to escalate to a more senior level where appropriate."

Carrick-on-Suir SF Cllr David Dunne said he felt the email basically told councillors not to make complaints on behalf of constituents and to leave it to individual Irish Water customers to contact Irish Water if they had an issue.

He was incensed at this as it was their job as public representatives to bring these issues to people's attention.

He denounced Irish Water as a disaster and highlighted a recent problem residents of Clairin in Carrick-on-Suir encountered dealing with the utility in trying to resolve a sewerage blockage on their estate.

FG councillor Michael Murphy supported Cllr Dunne's comments and he and Cllr Sean Ryan from Littleton said the email should never have been sent.

"I was very surprised to get this email. There is an inference from the email that we (Irish Water) are hearing from them (councillors) far too often and to get the constituents to contact Irish Water," said Cllr Murphy.

The Clonmel councillor pointed out that if he were to tell his constituents this he doubted he would be re-elected in the next local elections.

"I make no apology for contacting Irish Water on behalf of constituents; that is my job," he declared.

Cllr Murphy also took issue with the email's claim that Irish Water endeavoured to respond to issues within five working days.

"What good is that when you have a water leak or outage," he argued.

However, Fianna Fail Cllr Michael Anglim said it was very easy for councillors to "crack the whip down on Irish Water" and pointed out his dealings with the utility had been okay.

He acknowledged that issues with combined sewers in housing estates had to be resolved but felt councillors shouldn't always be coming down on Irish Water like a "ton of bricks".

The Council's Director of Water Services Sean Keating said he hadn't been aware Irish Water issued a letter to councillors regarding the amount of representations.

However, Irish Water did inform him there were a high number of representations from Tipperary councillors that were outstanding.

Mr Keating told The Nationalist that when the Co. Council looked into this, it found that many of the cases listed as "outstanding" had been resolved.