Throughout September, the Assembly politicians openly spoke of the need to impose water charges. Finance Minister Sammy Wilson has repeatedly warned that “hard decisions need to be made”, such as the introduction of water charges. Regional Development Minister Conor Murphy followed this up by saying he could not rule out the introduction of water charges.
We won’t be blackmailed!
The arguments the politicians have given for water charges have been cynical in the extreme. They are attempting to blackmail people by threatening that unless water charges are introduced, then they will be forced to carry out cuts to public services such as closing schools and hospitals. This is economic nonsense. Water charging has nothing to do with the financing of schools and hospitals and other public services. We already pay for water through our rates, which are due to rise in the coming years. The reason for the financial blackhole in the Executive’s budget is down to the politician’s incompetence. The cuts are taking place with or without water charges.
Politicians cannot be trusted
The Executive has been forced to defer water charges until 2012. They hope that they can fudge the question of introducing water charges in the upcoming general election and the Assembly and local elections in 2011. Their intention is to introduce water charges after these elections in the hope that they will avoid being punished in the ballot box. But people are not stupid. Most people can see that the Executive parties are preparing to introduce the tap tax. Even the UUP and SDLP, whose representatives have recently stated they are opposed to water charges, cannot escape the fact that they originally agreed the introduction of water charges in the first Assembly in 2002. They cannot be trusted. That is why it is important that the ground is prepared for people to resist water charges over the next two years. The We Won’t Pay Campaign needs to be built in every town and city across the North between now and April 2012.
Socialist opposition needed
There is no party in the Assembly which opposes water charges. There is a major vacuum in political representation for working class people. The Socialist Party has consistently opposed water charges and has been the only party to support and build the We Won’t Pay Campaign. The tactic of mass non-payment of water charges, which has won big support, has forced water charges to be deferred for seven years – saving every household thousands of pounds. This demonstrates the potential of a united cross community working class alternative to the right-wing sectarian parties carrying out cuts and water charges. A socialist opposition which stands up for working class people must be built to challenge the sectarian parties in the upcoming elections and represent a genuine opposition to water charges.