Getting them past polling day

Posted: November 27, 2014 in Austerity, Economy, Elections, Fine Gael, Labour

The Government says that it is in listening mode. Judging by Minister Kelly’s Water Charges announcement on November 19th they certainly seem to have a hearing problem.

Hundreds of thousands of people did not march for a temporary reduction in the water charges. They did not march for a €100 bribe. And they certainly didn’t march for draconian powers to enforce payment.

Our message is very simple. These charges are unjust and unfair and must be scraped.

The new billing regime is being sold as an effort to alleviate the burden from hard pressed families. In reality its aim is to help hard pressed Fine Gael and Labour TDs get over the line at the next general election.

The Governments claim that they have made water charges affordable is bogus. The cap is temporary and just like gas, electricity and bin charges they will only rise in the future.

The Governments claim that the water conservation grant will help people reduce water use is laughable. €100 will just about cover the cost of a couple of water butts for your garden. But the cost of making our homes more water efficient is significantly higher. The capped charge also provides no incentive to conserve.

The new regime takes no account of ability to pay. Once again low income families are being asked to pay the same rate as the wealthiest.

Worse still the Government intends to punish those who simply can-not pay through excessive fines and aggressive attachment orders. They are also trying to force landlords and local authorities into the role of Irish Water enforcers giving them powers to deduct unpaid water bills from tenant’s deposits.

It is also unclear whether the Government has got its figures right. The original plan was to raise €550m in domestic charges (€250m of which would be returned via social welfare payments and tax breaks) leaving a net contribution of €300m.

Government is now claiming that they have reduced the cost by 25% which would mean €75m less from the net water charge take.

Yet Irish Water are saying that they will still take in €271m in domestic charges, which is only a reduction of 9.6%.

When non-payment of domestic and commercial water charges are taken into account it is highly probable that the Government subvention will be greater than the revenue from charges. Irish Water will then fail the EUs Market Corporation Test making the entire exercise pointless.

The Governments new plan –though as shambolic as the last one- is both simple and cynical. By temporarily reducing the cost and strengthening the punishments they are hoping to split the protest movement. By delaying the bills and enforcement they are hoping to postpone people’s anger until after the next general election.

Now more than ever we need people to stay united behind the mass peaceful people’s movement that is Right2Water.

Now more than ever we need to mobilise the largest possible crowd at the Right2Water rally at the Dáil at 1pm on Wednesday 10 December.

Water is a human right. It must not be commodified or privatised. It should be funded through general and progressive taxation. Government investment should focus on fixing our broken system not on introducing meters.

If anything is to be taken from Fine Gael and Labour’s massive climb down it is that people power works. Clearly Government is on the run. The Right2Water is half way there. Let’s keep the pressure on Government until they do what the people are demanding. Abolish the charge, scrap Irish Water and enshrine the right to water as a public good into our constitution.

  1. Tom Coughlan says:

    Everyone with even half a brain will recognize what this is a complete fudge to fool the electorate once again. They must think they are the new Finna Fail!!

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