Some of our campaigning work, Socialist Voice, Jan. 2003

Fingal Rent Hike: Tenants Take Action



SHOCKED FINGAL County Council tenants learned over Christmas that without notice, the method of calculating rent for council houses was changed. The traditional ceiling has been removed, resulting in rent increases of over 200% in some cases.

All household income is now taken into account, with one sixth of the income of adult children being added to the rent. Residents face hikes such as going from for example 49 euro per week to 124 euro per week, or 60 euro to 200 euro a week.

This is the last straw, following all the other cutbacks and extra charges in the Budget, it will result in the impoverishment of entire families. Ordinary tenants are being forced to foot the bill for the reduction in government funding to the councils. While rents are rocketing, the amount of maintenance and schemes such

Sir George "Scrooge"

By Terry McDonagh and Colin Devine

THE WINNER of the End Low Pay Campaign's Scrooge of the Year competition 2002 was Sir George Bain. Just before Christmas, he was awarded with a picket of his palatial Queens University home and given a special Scrooge Christmas card.

He was given the award for a number of reasons. In his old capacity as head of the Low Pay Commission, he had overseen the introduction of the minimum wage at a genuinely miserly level. His report into the fire service promises job cuts and a reduced service and rejects firefighters' demands for a decent wage. Bain had the audacity to attack firefighters for the "perks" that go with the job, whatever they are. This from a man who earns a little under 200,000 a year as Queens Vice Chancellor and serves as director of a number of companies including Bombardier.

Obviously unable to survive on such a low salary, he is lucky that Queens provides him with a free "mansion" as well as a chauffeur driven car. Sir George also attacked the fire service for its record on promoting equality issues. He failed to mention the 42 cases taken against Queens University on a catalogue of issues including race, gender and religious discrimination and other employment practices.

Would Sir George like to swap his perks for the privilege of sleeping on a fire station floor? Does he think his record on equality would make the fire service more gender friendly?

Arise Sir Scrooge!

Campaign Against the Bin Tax:

Strengthen Mass Non Payment

THE CAMPAIGN against the bin tax in Dublin City is entering a crucial period. The crisis in the council has completely exposed the bin tax for what it is: an unjust double tax on working people that is nothing more than revenue for the council to make up for the lack of funding from central government. Any argument that this is an "environmental" tax has now been reduced to a joke. The fact that despite the massive pressure the councillors feel in communities, the establishment is determined to push ahead with the charge and is even set on increasing it, has to serve as a warning for the campaign. The bin tax is now a cornerstone of the local government's budget and they will do everything in their power to cash in the money.

The campaign is in a good position to counter this offensive: non-payment is widespread (November 2002: 74% non-payment) and local campaigns are organised in many areas around the city. We now have to prepare to defend this level of non-payment against attacks of the council.

The key to that is giving people the confidence that we can win this battle if we stick together and defy the courts. The campaign against the water charges has shown that if working class people have the resolve to fight an unjust tax all the way, the courts can successfully be defied. So far the campaign has successfully tied the Council up in knots on the legal front, challenging the legality of the tax. This gives us extra time to strengthen the campaign. Now is the time to get the word out all over Dublin City that there is an active campaign there to join. We need to build the membership not just to further build up the legal defence fund, but to assure that there is a network of activists in every estate, in every street that can counter the Council's propaganda with facts.

People are more angry than ever about this double tax and the Council's disgraceful scare tactics. Over the past weeks the local campaigns have been inundated with phone calls from people wanting to join and get active. If you haven't joined your local campaign already, phone the All-Dublin campaign @ 0035387 2837989 or for more info see the website www.stopthebintax.com

Bin Tax, Water Charges...

Back to Double Taxation!

By Michael Murphy

WATER CHARGES, increased bin charges and local authority income taxes, these are the stories that dominated much of the media over Christmas. It is quite clear that this government is determined that ordinary people will pay for the economic crisis.

Under the guise of promoting and developing local democracy, the minister for the environment, Martin Cullen, has initiated a two-year review of how local government operates in this country. The government has already abolished the dual mandate, so that TDs and Senators will no longer be able to stand in local elections as part of this review.

However, the key aspect and purpose of the review will be the issue of funding of local government. They have raised the issue of re-introduction of water charges and much more seriously the idea of local councils having the ability to raise income tax for their disposal locally. They dress this up under the guise that people would see where their euro is spent and ensure they would get value for money. What it really represents is another attempt for the government to screw PAYE taxpayers.

These funding ideas flow from the funding crisis in local authorities which dates back to 1977 when the then Fianna Fail government abolished household rates in order for them to win the election in that year.

They never kept up payment of the rate support grant brought in to replace the rates resulting in the perennial cash crisis of local government. Successive governments and councils have tried to introduce various local taxes in the form of water charges and bin charges which have been seriously resisted and in some parts of the country defeated. This issue has now been placed firmly on the political agenda because of the general economic crisis. It is quite clear that new system of local income taxes would not mean the slashing of central taxes. It is very much the case of enshrining the "principle" of double taxation for the PAYE taxpayer.

This agenda by the government raises the stakes in the local bin charges campaigns around the country and should stiffen our resolve not just to defeat these charges but also any future attempt by the government to make ordinary people pay for their crisis. If they win the battle on bin charges they will attempt to hit us with new taxes.

North: Water Charges - We Won't Pay

By Carol Barnett

THE FALL of the Assembly has smoothed one issue for the government - the introduction of water charges. They are pushing ahead with their plans to introduce additional charges for water within the next couple of years. Charges are likely to average at least 250 per household. Although we already pay for our water through rates, the government theory is that rates will be reduced to take account of the separate charge. In practice, this is unlikely. The calculation of rates is under review and present forecasts are that they will go up. In effect, we will be paying more for our rates and a water charge on top of this.

As usual, it will be the low-income families who will feel this the hardest. It is proposed that the water charge will be a flat rate per household. This means not taking into account affordability as the current rates system does or even the amount of water that is used. Households should refuse to pay this double tax.

A mass campaign of non-payment would force its removal. Behind the charges are proposals to privatise water services. This will inevitably lead to price increases and loss of water quality as private investors will only be interested in making a profit. The Socialist Party has already launched an anti-privatisation campaign to unite public anger against public services sell-offs. Stop the water charges will form part of this campaign.

Reports of some campaigns the SP has been active in are listed here.