£1,300 for water We won't pay!
THE WE Won't Pay Campaign is stepping up its activity over the coming weeks to establish more local anti-water charges groups around Belfast.
By Gary Mulcahy
Visit the site of the We Won't Pay Campaign
Since Minister John Spellar announced that he was pressing ahead with water charges, there has reportedly been a scurry of activity within the Department for Regional Development and the Water Reform Unit to prepare a charging regime.
It is likely that there will be no exemptions for disadvantaged groups; instead there will be a 25% discount for certain groups based on means-testing. As well as being expected to pay the full charge, the rest of us will be expected to pay another charge to subsidise any means-testing. This will mean that water charges in Northern Ireland are likely to be higher than anywhere else in Britain - they could be as much as £1,300 a year!
Despite Spellar saying the service will not be privatised, in reality it is being destroyed as a public service. The options in the consultation report are all varying forms of privatisation. Massive contracting out of jobs is now taking place. Last summer, Spellar announced that £268m worth of contracts would be up for grabs through Public Private Partnerships (another title for privatisation). In March another contract, Integrated Wastewater Framework-Project Management, will be announced worth a whopping £40m a year for the next five years with the option for an extension for a further three years. Not only is the private sector employing people on low wages and terrible conditions, but these contracts are designed to further erode conditions and to axe up to 800 jobs.
The Government is preparing in haste to introduce water charges. That adds pressure on the We Won't Pay Campaign to build groups throughout Northern Ireland to prepare a mass campaign of non-payment.
Householders already pay for water through the regional rate; they are perfectly entitled not to pay twice.
The umbrella group, Coalition Against Water Charges, to which the We Won't Pay Campaign and the Socialist Party are affiliated, has decided to organise a series of rallies in towns and cities across the North building up to a major rally in Belfast this May. The We Won't Pay Campaign will organise to support all these events but also to help increase the number of households who are already saying - We can't pay, we won't pay!