This article is from the July 2004 edition of Socialist Voice
Government lies and deceit answered
WATER CHARGES are set to be introduced in April 2006.
After a series of so-called consultation meetings around Northern Ireland, which showed unanimous opposition to charges, the government continues to ignore public opinion and spreads lies and deceit to try and hoodwink the public into accepting water charges.
Water charges will throw thousands of more households into poverty.
Below we answer some of the arguments New Labour ministers have thrown up to try to justify these bogus charges.
"EU Water Framework Directive requires water charges"
Nowhere in the Water Framework Directive is there any specific mention of the introduction of user charges.
"Householders don't pay for Water"
Every household in Northern Ireland pays for the water and sewerage services through the regional rate. 37% of rates go towards water and sewerage services. As well as introducing an extra separate charge for water, rates are set to increase too. 50% of all water used in Northern Ireland is used by industry, yet householders are expected to pay the total cost.
"People in Northern Ireland do not contribute enough in taxation as people in Britain"
Wages in Northern Ireland are considerably lower than in Britain. Household incomes here are 19% below the UK average. Northern Ireland households have an average income of £445 per week compared with £550 per week for Britain as a whole. 21% of household income is dependent on benefits compared with 12% reliance in Britain. Households in Northern Ireland pay on average 26% more for fuel, light and power than households in Britain. The proposed £400 charge would place Northern Ireland 53% above the average in England &
Wales and 9% above average costs for water in Scotland.
"Vulnerable groups will be protected"
There are no exemptions - everyone will have to pay. Mention of a 25% "discount" charge for disadvantaged groups for the first three years will mean an estimated £300 a year. Yet "disadvantaged" groups already pay for water through the rates. A discount charge of £300 a year is still a discount £300 robbery. 170,000 households in Northern Ireland are in fuel poverty. Poor households in Northern Ireland contain over 1/2 million people, including almost 150,000 children. Water charges will guarantee further impoverishment.