Water charges to come in two years -

Countdown to Mass non Payment

OUR LOCAL politicians were shedding plenty of crocodile tears at the announcement from Phoenix Gas that gas prices would be increasing by a whopping 20% last month.

Of course, this is yet another example of privatised companies ripping-off the people of Northern Ireland. You can be sure Phoenix Gas were inspired by Northern Ireland Electricity (another privatised company) charging us the most expensive electricity prices in Britain and Ireland.

Yet, the sharpest attack on ordinary people in the North is being prepared quietly in the shadows by Government ministers. The introduction of water charges and the privatisation of the water and sewerage service is now less than two years away.

Ministers have stated that charges will be in the region of 400-600 a year. There will be no exemptions. Every household, including the unemployed, low paid and pensioners, will have to pay water charges. We already pay for water through our rates - now we're being told to pay twice!

On top of that the service is to be sold to the private sector. Inevitably, private water companies will deliver a worse service and increase charges to make as much profits they can. Already, 600 job losses have been announced. More are in danger of being lost. All the political parties in the Assembly Executive, UUP, SDLP, Sinn Fein and the DUP, agreed to introduce water charges.

Since the Assembly came crashing down, the parties have opportunistically stated their opposition to the charges. There can be no reliance on the right-wing parties to campaign against water charges.

The Water Charges - We Won't Pay Campaign, which the Socialist Party is energetically building in communities, is organising for a campaign of mass non-payment.

The We Won't Pay Campaign is holding public meetings in communities and establishing local groups to organise areas not to pay the proposed water charges. We Won't Pay Campaign stalls are receiving an excellent response from people throughout Belfast.

Most people's response to water charges is "We can't afford to pay - we're not paying!" With less than two years to go before the introduction of the charges, it is urgent that the campaign spreads into all areas. If you would like to set up a group in your area, then contact the campaign on 90232962.

Visit the site of the We Won't Pay Campaign

This article is from the April 2004 edition of Socialist Voice.

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