Article from the Sept 2004 edition, Socialist Voice

Non-payment threat rattles government

IT'S OFFICIAL - the Government has been rocked by the threat of mass non-payment of water charges!

By Tommy Black

Visit the site of the We Won't Pay Campaign
This is clear from a leaked letter from Secretary of State, Paul Murphy, to the Treasury. In this Murphy admits that the Government's strategy of the "overt pursuit of private involvement will therefore strengthen the hand of those who are opposing the overall water reform package and could add weight to those who are arguing for a water charge non-payment campaign".

Murphy goes on to say "I believe that if we adopt this strong approach to seeking private sector involvement from the outset, it will be seized upon by the many opponents of water reform as evidence that the Government has a clear privatisation agenda for the water industry in Northern Ireland".

This statement completely contradicts the Government's public position that "privatisation has been ruled out". Spellar recently announced that the water service will be run by a GoCo (a government-owned company) from April 2006. In reality, this is the first step towards privatisation.

Murphy proposes that rates should increase significantly before the introduction of water charges so as to "soften" up householders and get them used to paying higher bills!

He tries to explain this in the letter: "The reality for individual householders will be significant increases in total household bills, primarily due to the rapid phasing in of water charges of over 300 per year. That is why we have drawn up proposals to make above trend increases in Regional Rates immediately before the introduction of water charging, so that we can moderate the total increases in household bills".

This leaked letter illustrates how the tops of the Government have been rattled by just the threat of mass non-payment. It proves that mass non-payment is the key to defeating the water charges.

The Water Charges We Won't Pay Campaign has injected non-payment as a central theme to the debate over water charges. Spokespersons have been interviewed and have intervened on radio programmes to answer the lies of the Government and explain how people are entitled not to pay twice for water.

The campaign has begun knocking on doors and signing households up to the non-payment pledge. After knocking on hundreds of doors, we have yet to meet one single person who actually supports water charges. The campaign will be calling public meetings in different areas over the next two months to establish local We Won't Pay groups.

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