Say NO to water charges

We already pay in our rates! “Pay water charges or we’ll close down more hospitals and schools!” That’s the message being prepared by the Assembly Executive who have pencilled in April 2012 as the date for issuing water bills to homes.

Even though it is widely accepted we pay for water through the rates, some voices in the media have been heard to say we will have to start paying for water – and if we don’t pay water charges, then schools and hospitals will have to close!

The reality is the Executive is already carrying out cuts to services, and has agreed to implement more cuts with or without the introduction of water charges. Scandalously, the Minister for Health has decided to remove accident and emergency services in both the Whiteabbey and Mid-Ulster hospitals, resulting in 110 job losses. The introduction of water charges won’t stop the politicians’ war on public services. It is a cynical attempt to blackmail us into paying twice for water.

The introduction of a £370 annual bill for water, on top of a possible rise in rates and the slash and burn of public services are all part of the “hard decisions” that the politicians claim they have to take. These decisions are hard on ordinary working class people, not on big business and the rich though. Chris Mellor, former Chairman of Northern Ireland Water, isn’t finding it too hard. Before stepping down from his position, he was paid £170,000 salary and received a golden handshake of £25,000, even though Northern Ireland Water lost £250,000 due to the mismanagement of billing non-domestic customers.

Don’t believe the politicians – the money IS there!
Despite what the politicians say, the money exists to properly fund our water service. Last year alone, public consultancy fees paid out by the Executive amounted to at least £106 million. This figure doesn’t even include the Department of Health – the largest department. Invest NI has paid a staggering £1 billion of taxpayers money to multinational companies over the past five years – many of whom went on to sack hundreds of workers. Money raised through water charges will be used to pay private companies which have taken over much of the service through public private partnership contracts. If the Executive was actually interested in saving money for public services they should immediately kick the profiteers out of the water service.

Socialist opposition needed
When the politicians refer to the “hard decisions that have to be made”, what they really mean is that it will be hard for them to implement them against the resistance of workers and local communities. Water charges can be defeated through a mass boycott campaign. The water charges and cuts agenda of the parties in the Assembly also needs to be challenged on the electoral front. That is why the Socialist Party is standing in the general election next May. It is essential a socialist opposition to the right wing policies of the Assembly parties is built to represent the interests of workers, young people and the unemployed.

NI Water throw our money down the drain
There is no end to the antics of the bosses of the partly privatised water company NI Water. After wasting millions on miscalculating the revenue flow expected from domestic water charges, and introducing cuts to the service, they now claim they will have to pay out up to £3m in order to alter a contract with Steria, one of the private companies involved in the water service. NI Water boss William Duddy had the nerve to claim “it will be value for taxpayers”. Yet another reason not to pay water charges!

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