Water charges on the way

On a Daily Politics discussion on the economy in the run up to the election, Finance Minister Sammy Wilson of the DUP made it crystal clear that, in his opinion, the Assembly Executive will introduce water charges. He admitted that the charges have only been deferred, not scrapped, and went on to say that “when they are introduced” it must be on the basis of “fairness”.

With huge public opposition to water charges, you might have expected the other politicians to round on Wilson to score some political points. But instead Mitchell McLaughlin of Sinn Fein and the representatives of the other main parties also categorically refused to rule out the charges, while of course echoing Wilson’s mantra that they must be “fair”. This is a far cry from their election manifestos of 2007, when all the main parties posed as opponents of the double tax, despite having already signed up to them in principle.

The Alliance Party’s David Ford has perhaps been the most forthright in pushing for water charges to be introduced, stating that they are “inevitable” and that continued deferral is “not financially sustainable.” Alliance claim that holding the charges off is costing the £200 million per year. Interestingly, this is the same amount that their proposed cut in corporation tax – a policy also supported by the other main parties – would remove from Northern Ireland’s block grant from Westminster. In other words, they want to squeeze more money from ordinary people – pushing many to the wire – so they can give even more handouts to big business. In reality, Alliance are just saying what all the other parties mean in a more “honest” way.

It is now obvious that the Assembly Executive intend to introduce water charges in the near future. This will not be to provide funds for investment in the infrastructure of the water service. This could easily be found by removing corporate rates exemptions, subsidies to big business which cost hundreds of millions every year. Working-class people have been paying for the water service through their rates for decades. Water charges are aimed at making NI Water profitable and handing it fully over to the private sector vultures who already have a huge stake in it.

Working-class communities must now begin to get organised through the We Won’t Pay Campaign to refuse to pay the charges whenever they are introduced. It was the threat of non-payment which scared the politicians into deferring the charges for 4 years, and this tactic can defeat the charges and deliver the right-wing Executive a bloody nose.

 

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