The Water Services (No. 2) Act 2013 transferred statutory responsibility for water services to Irish Water and provided for local authorities to act as agents for Irish Water, with this relationship being expressed through Service Level Agreements. The agreements signed by each authority and Irish Water were tailored to the individual authority circumstances, reflecting numbers of local authority staff covered and the operational budgets appropriate to the cost of providing water services within each authority area.
The Service Level Agreements are set in the context of a Framework Agreement for Service Level Agreements agreed at the Irish Water Consultative Group. This agreement outlines that the Service Level Agreement will include a programme to improve the efficiencies in water services operations, including investment in infrastructure and new technologies, training and up-skilling, and reflecting best practice in standard operating procedures and processes. Each Service Level Agreement in place with a Local Authority is supported by an Annual Service Plan which reflects the required programme of transformation for that authority. Funding under each Annual Service Plan is designed to reimburse the local authority for the costs incurred on water services and staffing levels will be reviewed each year as part of the Annual Service Plan.
The Revised Estimates Volume for Public Services 2014 provides for funding of €490m for Irish Water from the Local Government Fund in 2014; the final outturn figure for 2014 is likely to be slightly less than this amount at €486.5m. This will fund water related expenditures incurred heretofore by local authorities from their own resources and general purpose grants. Within this overall framework, the agreement of budgets with local authorities and the payments for services provided are matters for Irish Water. The Annual Financial Statement of each local authority for 2014 onwards will explicitly detail the cost of services provided to Irish Water and the related payments received in each financial year.
My Department has asked Irish Water to put in place specific arrangements to address the queries which public representatives may have in relation to matters pertaining to the operation of water services under the new utility. I understand that Irish Water has made contact with Oireachtas members to outline the arrangements for addressing such queries in a timely manner.