Article from the May 2004 edition, Socialist Voice
How to beat the water tax
"The 'We Won't Pay' Campaign was set up to prepare for mass non-payment of water charges. The central lesson of the anti-poll tax campaign and the anti-water charges campaign in the South is if everybody refuses to pay these charges it will be impossible for the Government to enforce it."
THE PLANNED introduction of water charges is now less than two years away. The Government has already announced that the bills are to be in the region of £400 - £600 in the first year. They also say that prices will need to be increased further thereafter.
By Gary Mulcahy
Visit the site of the We Won't Pay Campaign
There are to be no exemptions. Pensioners, the unemployed, the 21% of the population who depend on key benefits and the low paid will be hit with these bills.
The water and sewerage services are to be sold-off to private companies. 600 jobs losses were announced last year - one third of the workforce.
Unsurprisingly, there is mass opposition to these plans. During the so-called 'consultation' process, there was unanimous opposition at the public meetings to all the proposals in Water Reform Northern Ireland 'Consultation Document'. Such is the opposition that every District Council across Northern Ireland has passed motions opposing water charges. It has also led the political parties who sat in power in the last Assembly Executive to lie about their role in agreeing to introduce water charges.
But how can water charges and the privatisation of the service be stopped?
A number of different campaigns were formed after the publication of the first 'Consultation Report'. An initiative was taken by NIC-ICTU to establish an umbrella 'Coalition Against Water Charges' (CAWC) incorporating groups such as Communities Against the Water Tax, NI Anti-Poverty Network, the Water Charges 'We Won't Pay' Campaign, the Water Service Trade Union Group and various trade unions and political parties.
Despite a number of well attended meetings, CAWC has yet to hit the streets or enter the communities to build opposition to the Government's plans. Unfortunately, CAWC's entire emphasis has been to completely rely on the local politicians to oppose water charges for us.
How can we rely on politicians who agreed to introduce water charges while in the Assembly? How can we rely on politicians who have privatised our hospitals, schools and other services? The emphasis of the campaign needs to be based on building support in the communities, not the right-wing politicians.
The Socialist Party has been the most active group campaigning against water charges. As a result of the overwhelming support from the public for a real campaign against water charges, we took the decision to launch the "Water Charges - We Won't Pay" Campaign.
The "We Won't Pay" Campaign was set up to prepare for mass non-payment of water charges. The central lesson of the anti-poll tax campaign and the anti-water charges campaign in the South is that if everybody refuses to pay these charges it will be impossible for the Government to enforce them.
People are perfectly entitled not to pay twice for water - we already pay for the water and sewerage service through the regional rate. 37% of our rates go towards water and sewerage. It is not the fault of working class people in Northern Ireland are these services run down. Decades of neglect of the water and sewerage systems in Northern Ireland by consecutive Governments is to blame. That is why people should refuse to pay these charges.