Campaign Against the Bin Tax: Mass Non-Payment can Defy Cullen's Attack

by Diarmuid Naessens in Socialist Voice, Feb. 2003

FORTHCOMING PROPOSALS for dramatic changes to the Waste Management Act by environment minister Martin Cullen are an attack on local democracy. These changes give dictatorial powers to unelected city and county managers who are only accountable to a government minister.

If this legislation goes through then city and county managers will have the sole authority to set the annual rates for the bin charges. Martin Cullen has stated that these charges may be in the region of 600 - 700 per household.

The government also have plans to reintroduce water charges at 200 per year and have talked of moving in the direction of giving local authorities the power to raise a local income tax.

These new changes have been consciously designed by the government as a means of combating the mass campaign of non-payment of the bin tax, in particular, in the greater Dublin area. The new legislation also removes the legal obligation of local authorities to collect household rubbish irrespective of whether the tenant has paid the bin tax or not. City and county councils will now attempt to break the anti bin tax campaign by refusing to collect the rubbish of non payers.

The legislation also gives exclusive powers to city and county mangers to build waste incinerators, which is a license to slowly poison the population with dioxins which will penetrate the water system and food chain.

The government has pushed its local service charges and privatisation agenda under the guise of protecting the environment. It is now preparing to push through changes which will have a serious impact on our environment. The threat of non collection has the potential to create a major health crisis, and it will also have major implications for the tourist industry.

Non payment of the bin tax is still the best way to defeat the bin tax. If non payment remains at the high level of 74% then it will undermine the ability of any local authority to try and implement a policy of non collection.

Therefore the local campaigns need to continue to strengthen the campaign of non payment. A priority for the next period is to visit every local estate with leaflets on a regular basis, keeping people up to date with the latest news and tactics of the campaign and recruiting new members and building up the legal funds needed to fight the councils in the courts.

An approach should be made by the anti-bin tax campaign to the unions with an appeal that bin workers should refuse to implement the councils' policy of non-collection. A united campaign between the bin workers collecting every households rubbish combined with a campaign of mass non payment can defeat the government and force them to scrap the bin charges.

Fingal Council Rent Rip-Off

By Ruth Coppinger

IMAGINE RECEIVING a letter at Christmas informing you that your rent was to increase by 100 to 400%. That was the experience of hundreds of tenants of Fingal County Council, Dublin. The County Manager - without any reference to the elected councilors - lifted the traditional ceiling on the maximum rent, which had never been more than 50 per week, demanding new rents of anything up to 230 per week.

Following outrage, the Manager has made modifications, but many tenants still face increases from 50 to 90 per week - more than is being paid by neighbours in mortgages. Socialist Party representatives, Joe Higgins T.D. and Councillor Clare Daly immediately responded, organising public meetings.

These were attended by hundreds of people who overwhelmingly decided to not pay the increases and to stage a protest at the Council meeting on 10 February. The protest was a great success, with 200 tenants braving bad weather to stage an angry protest demanding reversal of the Manager's rackrenting.

Because of the housing crisis, many tenants have three generations living in homes, poorly maintained by the Council and in cramped conditions. Ironically, the Council now wants to charge more in rent than what is being paid in mortgages by people who bought the exact same houses in the 1980s. This while many of the affected tenants have been living in these houses for 20 years or more.

Once again, the poorest are asked to pay for the crisis in local authority funding, while businesses escape scot-free. The next stage is to seek a direct meeting between the Manager and representatives of tenants. The harsh realities of life for ordinary people - faced with a series of increases in TV licence charges, VAT, ESB and motor tax - has to be brought home to him and some councilors. Socialist Party representatives will fight all the way on this alongside Council tenants.

Other reports of campaigns in our paper are available.