Joe Higgins Column - Bin Tax battle approaches

Socialist Voice June 2003

The Minister for the Environment, Martin Cullen, introduced the "Protection of the Environment Bill, 2003", in the Dail on 29 May. This Bill is the "Trojan Horse" through which three provisions are being introduced which constitute a savage attack on local democracy and provide a weapon to impose a new tier of local taxation on ordinary people.

Section 19 of the Bill removes the power to review, vary or replace a waste management plan from elected Councillors and gives it exclusively to City or County Managers. This includes decisions on incinerators and landfill. Thus for example, the rejection of a toxic waste incinerator voted on by Cork County Council very recently, could not happen if this Bill is passed. Section 35 gives the City and County Managers exclusive power to decide each year on the amount of bin tax that the Councils will demand. This will further propel the attempt of Councils to ratchet up the amount of refuse charges on householders. This can also be a prelude to an attempt to privatise the household refuse collection services where that has not already happened.

Section 22 is the part of the Bill that is designed as an attempt to break the Anti Bin Tax Campaign in the greater Dublin area. It gives the Councils the right to refuse to collect bins where a charge has not been paid. This is a blatant attempt to intimidate the huge Anti Bin Tax Campaign supported by tens of thousands of households throughout the greater Dublin area.

When I spoke in the Dail on the issue, I outlined what the Minister was attempting to do in clear terms: "He hopes to bludgeon householders into an acceptance of the bin tax. He then wants the level of bin taxes increased annually to substantial amounts. The next part of the agenda is an attempt to restore the hated water charges. It is, in other words, the creation of a parallel tier of local taxation, which will in no time reach 1,000 euro per household".

Section 30 of the Bill is designed in such a way as to require the operator of a waste disposal facility to charge fees that will make up the full amount of the cost of the operation including the purchase of the site. This means, for example, in cities and big towns ordinary householders will be called upon to fund the massive prices which speculators are charging for land on which such facilities could be built.

Unfortunately, the Minister for the Environment left just before I spoke in the Dail. He said he was obliged to attend a meeting of City and County Managers that had been prearranged.

I outlined quite clearly what the attitude of many communities around the greater Dublin area would be: "I am telling the Minister now and the Councils that the first day that they try to implement the provision of refusing to collect the bins of decent taxpayers, particularly in Dublin, they will be fought on the ground. They will be met by mobilisations of people power and peaceful disobedience. They will not be allowed to enact and to put into effect this repressive measure in order to beat and defeat the decent taxpayers who fund the bulk of the taxation system and the bulk of services and who will not be prepared to go back to the bad old days of the 1970s and 1980s when the PAYE man and woman were hammered while multimillionaires were salting away their ill gotten gains - in many cases in offshore accounts. They are not prepared to go back to that again. It will be resisted. There will be mobilisations in the communities against it, so the Minister of State, Deputy Gallagher, can tell the Minister that at this stage, he would do much better to withdraw these provisions from this legislation and then let the discussion proceed on what is worthwhile in the Bill."

For other articles by Joe Higgins TD visit the sitemap. Material on the bin charges campaign is here.
To see what the Socialist Party stands for visit our main site