Friday, July 1, 2011

Say No to Water Tax – Keep Our Water Public!

Louise Minihanéirígí Dublin City councillor Louise Minihan has slammed the confirmation that the Dublin government intends introducing new water and family home taxes from early next year.

Minihan said: “The coalition's confirmation that water and family home taxes are to be introduced is yet another attack on hard pressed working people already burdened with privately accumulated banking debt."

“The diktats of the IMF/EU are being implemented with vigour by a Fine Gael/Labour coalition that promised change but is simply delivering more of the same neoliberal policies that created the economic crisis."

“The imposition of a water tax is simply the first step on the road to the full privatisation of the domestic water supply and will be resisted by working class communities across the Twenty-Six Counties.”

The water charges announcement was made last month at a conference in Dublin which discussed the installation of domestic water meters across the Twenty-Six Counties. It was addressed by Twenty-Six County environment minister Phil Hogan and representatives of private business interests seeking to profit from the installation of a water metering system and the inevitable privatisation the domestic water system.

Water supply has become a major global business, with multinational corporations amassing enormous profits from the privatisation of domestic water supplies.

Amongst those addressing delegates at the conference was Darren Bentham, director of universal water metering with the Southern Water Company in England. The recent history of that company demonstrates how global financial interests are profiting from the commodification and privatisation of domestic water supply.

The company has passed through the hands of various private investors since the Thatcher water privatisation programme in 1989. In 2007, Royal Bank of Scotland sold the utility company to a consortium of international investors for £4.3 billion. The Greensands consortium, made up of a fund advised by JP Morgan investment bank, bought a 32 per cent stake, the Australian Challenger Infrastructure fund took a 27 per cent stake, while merchant bank UBS took 18 per cent. The remaining share of the company is divided between an Australian pension fund and infrastructure investor Paceweald.

In 2010, Southern Water declared pre-tax profits of over £300 million, while domestic users paid an average of £330 in water charges per year.

In 2007, OFWAT, the water regulator in England and Wales imposed a £20 million fine on Southern Water for supplying false customer service data. The data supplied by the company suggested it was performing better than was actually the case and resulted in higher domestic water charges for its customers. In 2008, the British Environment Agency named Southern Water as Britain’s second biggest polluting water firm.

According to OFWAT, domestic water and sewage bills have increased on average 44 per cent since the privatisation of the domestic water supply and sewage treatment system in England and Wales in 1989. In 2008, the average household bill in England and Wales was £330. However, the water regulator has since approved increased tariffs and households in England and Wales will face higher bills this year.

According to Minhan, the experience of households in England and Wales will be repeated in the Twenty-Six Counties.

“Despite the establishment propaganda, the introduction of domestic water charges has little to do with water conservation and everything to do with creating a profit boon for global corporations and the privatisation of public services,” Minihan added.

“The 2008 Local Government Management Services Board on Service Indicators in Local Authorities revealed that two-thirds of local authorities in the state lost 40 per cent of water through leaking pipes."

“In order to conserve water, the Dublin government needs to invest in fixing the creaking water infrastructure and introducing genuine water conservation measures. Instead, householders now face the prospect of charges for their domestic water supply in order to pay off the debts of rich bankers and developers."

“While Phil Hogan claims that householders will get a free allocation of water before charges are imposed, a similar yarn was spun when Dublin City Council introduced the bin tax almost 10 years ago. Yet, from next year, low income householders in Dublin City Council face a charge for bin collection of €208. In addition, the household waste collection service is being increasingly privatised.”

Minihan concluded: “éirígí is part of the No Water Tax campaign and is committed to playing its part in building a vigorous campaign of opposition to water tax across the Twenty-Six Counties and to ensuring the domestic water supply remains in public hands.”

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