Water water…

The BBC are reporting on the projected cost of ‘forthcoming’ water charges, a cost that is part of the RRI (Reinvestment and Reform Initiative) agreed by Trimble and Durkan. The original debate in the Assembly shows some of the scare stories at the time over how the loan would be repaid have turned out to be correct.

Mr McCartney: Will the rates be increased?

The First Minister: The rates might be increased or something else might be increased. That is what we have to consider. The rating review opens up the issue for discussion. The Assembly and the community in Northern Ireland must face that discussion. We must recognise that the level of taxation in local government in Northern Ireland is less than that in England, Scotland and Wales. Therefore we must consider that point and ask whether additional revenue can be found to meet the cost of future borrowing.
Some of the scare stories that have been spread in the media about what this may mean are, however, greatly exaggerated. The Assembly will make any decisions on the matter, and I hope that when we reach that point there will be grown-up discussion and consideration instead of some of the sillier points that have been raised in recent months.

  • peteb

    That’s a pretty desperate and, IMHO, party political attempt to smear David Trimble and Mark Durkan for these new water rates, Mark.

    What happened to the rest of the Executive when this was agreed? We’re they all off fishing?

    And who was Chair of the Assembly Committee for Finance and Personnel at that time? None other than SF’s Francie Molloy, if I recall. No input from them either?

    What about the actual Department responsible for the Water Service? Did they not have a say? Remind us who exactly was in charge of the Department for Regional Development?.. that would be the DUP’s Peter Robinson, wouldn’t it?

    The reality is that all the parties have their fingerprints on the early stages of this.. but the actual decisions are being taken by Direct Rule Ministers right now… and, at this moment, we don’t have any say in the matter.

  • Ciaran

    Mark,
    Your link shows that the move at the time was hardly vehemently opposed! It also fails to take into account that Water Charges may not be here if we had local government.
    Through all the media coverage, no party really has come up with a viable alternative to the problem of Northern Irelands outdated water and sewage systems, no one wants to pay extra but wheres the alternatives??
    Or was this thread just an attempt at a dig at Trimble and Durkan???

  • Mark McGregor

    Those responsible for agreeing the RRI funding package, the allocation of funds and as a result reform of rates are Trimble, Durkan, Farren, HMG Treasury and Blair. They sought to claim the kudos at the time and now claim to be fighting against the consequences of their own actions.

    Durkan – ‘I want to publicly acknowledge the good and hard work of the small group of officials and advisers who have worked with David Trimble, Sean Farren and myself in bringing these concepts to fruition’

  • Mark McGregor
  • Ciaran

    From your link.
    ‘Politics is no longer about undermining each other, it’s about underwriting each other. Through working together we are gaining confidence, and a sense of shared responsibility for our future’ – see that points still lost on some then……..

    What was the SF alternative again?

  • Belfast Gonzo

    Molloy proposed tax varying powers similar to Scotland’s around that time, IIRC.

  • smcgiff

    The current version of commenting is FUBAR!

  • peteb

    You’re at it again Mark.

    The quote you’re using relates to the original £125million loan from the treasury which was due to last up to March 2004 – details linked by you earlier. – and not the raising of revenue for future infrastructure investment.

    According to that arrangement, to use a quote from your own links, “There will be no major increases in local revenue until after full public consultation and until a fairer system for raising revenue has been developed to replace the present system. The pace of change will be subject to approval by the Northern Ireland Assembly”

    Do you really need someone to point out that these water rates are being imposed without “approval by the Northern Ireland Assembly”?

    Gonzo

    The Committee for Finance and Personnel, of which Molloy was Chairman, actually proposed the introduction of water meters at the time.

  • The Dog

    Durkan and Trimble worked on the RRI and claimed it as their own baby. Now that it is clear that it was a very very bad deal and would only ever lead to the water charges the SDLP in particular are looking to disclaim ownership.

    But whatever about the whataboutery this is a fore runner to privaisation – and just think back to the ‘cracking’ job the Brits did on electricity privatisation and be very very afraid.

    The reality is that we all need to stand together against this and wre all need the politicians to work to get the assewmbly back up and running again. Who cares whether it is the Durkan tax. We will all be paying for it.

  • peteb

    The reason why it’s important, Dog, is that we’re seeing an attempt at a party political smear-job when we should be highlighting the democratic deficit of the imposition of water rates based on house prices without the approval by the Assembly, never mind the Executive – approval that was an integral part of the RRI arrangement.

    An integral part that the British Government is sidestepping.

  • Ciaran

    Tax varying powers would mean people seeing more taxes going out of their weekly/monthly pay cheques without seing where exactly it goes, at least Water charges would go to much needed Water Reform.
    The RRI was a means of bringing much needed extra money to areas of NI that needed it (would people prefer that the Water systems etc stayed the way they are?, no good for people here no matter whose rule we’re under), nowhere under Local Assembly was the idea of Water Charges specifically veteod as a means of getting this money, that came down to Direct Rule Ministers.

  • willowfield

    RRI was a positive achievement by the Executive.

    Obviously we need to pay more rates – compared to the rest of the UK we pay very little.

    Nobody wants to pay more, but we haven’t got much of an argument for the status quo.

    As for water privatisation, that is (or at least it should be) a separate issue from the collection of rates.

  • Belfast Gonzo

    pete

    You could well be right (can’t remember) about water meters, but Molloy definitely has been advocating tax varying powers regardless.

    Maybe if Peter Robinson gets us this £1 billion peace package he was talking about in Dublin we can rest easier?!

  • peteb

    Trust me, Gonzo, I’m right on that one.

    As for tax-varying powers… that was general taxation to be used for all and sundry.. unless it was ring-fenced specifically for water infrastructure it’s not going to get there.

    And quite frankly the demanding of another ‘peace-dividend’, after deliberately squandering the opportunity of last six years, strikes me as being more than a little hypocritical.

  • Pat Mc Larnon

    If ratepayers are deducted that part of the regional rate that goes towards the upkeep of the water & sewerage system before the water charges are implimented then it will at least cushion the blow to those who actually pay rates.

  • Ciaran

    Pat you’ve missed the point, its not enough to upkeep the current water system which our rates currently do, it needs to be revamped. Current rates wouldn’t nearly cover it and the money has to come from somewhere – the decision on where it comes from should have been the decision of local government.

  • Pat Mc Larnon

    Ciaran,
    I know that the obligations we have under European legislation have to be met and that those obligations entail massive spending on infrastructure.
    However, what will happen to that part of the regional rate that currently goes on water and sewerage treatment.
    I am currently under the impression that the figures quoted by Spellar for water charges are enough to meet our committments. Are the government saying that people should pay the water charges bills and continue to pay that part of the regional rates that cover water and sewerage treatment?
    Will that money be diverted into council coffers after the introduction of water charges?
    At the very least what is proposed is ambiguous. Most people recognise investment is needed. But a clear and concise statement of the relationship between the introduction of water charges and the future of the regional rate is needed.
    A situation cannot be allowed to arise where after the introduction of water charges local rates bills continue at the same level

  • willowfield

    Pat McLarnon is right. There should be a reduction in domestic rates, since domestic rates include water rates.

  • Ciaran

    Pat, apologies, I was under the impression that the extra funding was for the revamp and not the existing upkeep, if this is not the case then its a bit odd that we’d essentially be paying for some aspects of the water service twice! All the more reason for this whole process to be more transparent under local government.