Assembly could block water charges.. but bill will remain to be paid.

As Mick noted previously Water Tax is one of the main issues of this election and with all parties in opposition, to one degree or another, the reported intervention today by the Department of Regional Development is worth noting. [aren’t they supposed to be in purdah? – Ed]

A spokeswoman for the Department said: “Should a restored Assembly wish to either amend or repeal the provisions of the Order (water charges law) they could do so, as they could any legislation on matters falling within the transferred field, by introducing and approving an Assembly bill which would then require Royal Assent.”

While that is true for any matter within a transferred field, if the government has already signed contracts relating to the billing of water charges that situation will be more complicated than at first glance.

Additionally, as the PA report goes on to note, there will still be a bill to be paid

Hundreds of thousands of householders are bracing themselves for fresh payment demands to cover the cost of upgrading the dilapidated water and sewerage infrastructure.

Simply blocking a separate water charge will not cover the cost of upgrading the sewage and water infrastructure. And unless that work is completed, as soon as possible, there will be additional charges added on to the cost

Whether we’ll hear anything other than soundbites, or more demands, from the parties on this before the election is currently unknown..

, , ,

  • Truth and Justice

    All the partys say they oppose water charges so if the Assembly can change it then they must keep to their word and get rid of Water charges as they all have committed to.

  • Red Mist

    All the parties have really been found wanting on this issue.

    They all say they oppose the water tax, a double taxation as we already pay for water through our rates, but none of them have come out in support of a mass non-payment campaign.

    Thus it is their opinion that we must pay them. However, it is worth noting that, some of them at least, say that they are going to work in any new assembly to revoke the charges. If this is so then why would they ask people to pay them in the first place? If it is to be repealed then why ask people to stump up?

    I for one will not be paying. I will not pay twice for something. I will not pay to ‘create a revenue stream’ for the water service so that it can be privatised, which is without doubt the main objective behind this.

    The whole thing is a farce. We are being accused of not wanting to pay for water. We are not, we are refusing to pay twice. We are refusing to pay for the privatisation of one of our most fundamental and basic human rights.

    We are also refusing to be fooled by the process. The British government have said the consultation process will run until March 5th, but strangely most of us have already received our first estimates. Thus, the ‘consultation’ will not and cannot have any impact on this issue. The decision is already made.

    We are also refusing to be fooled by the estimates. Initailly they will be fairly inoffensive. I believe the first estimate will average about £100-150 per year. There are a few alarms to sound for people.

    Firstly, the charges are due to be phased in. The legislation dictates that this cost will treble in two years time. Thus the average cost then will rise to £300-450 per annum. Getting steeper. Worse still the charge will be based on the value of your home. The current estimate is based on house prices in 2005. I need not explain how out of date that figure now becomes. House prices have risen somewhere in the region of 30% in this period I believe. So when the house price rises are factored in the average price will be somewhere in the region of £600-£800. Can we afford this?

    Not only do we pay this in our rates already, the rates figure has also risen massively over the past couple of years. Our rates will not be reduced to take into account that we will now be paying a direct charge for water.

    Also, some people trapped in the poverty cycle, those on benefits or OAP’s, will be fooled into thinking their bills are cheap enough to pay. I think the average OAP bill will be £30-40. However, this affordability safeguard will dissappear in two years time meaning that they will no longer face discounted bills. They will pay the same as everyone else. So OAP’s with possible bills of £600-800. Does this sound ‘do-able’?

    The argument has been offered that this is an effort to cut down on waste. Lie. This will have ABSOLUTELY NO impact upon wastage. It is a blanket double tax with no incentive to save water.

    We have to deal with this legislation as it is and not as we may want it to be. There is no room for the average person to amend this system. The only option for us is to defeat it wholesale. Defeat it like the english defeated the poll tax. Defeat it like the Dub’s defeated the water tax introduced by the Irish government.

    I for one will not pay twice. I will not pay for privatisation. I will not pay to prop up a system which will plunge OAP’s and the poor in our society further into poverty.

    I encourage everyone to do the only thing that will defeat these double taxes…join the mass non-payment campaign where all of us together, whatever our backgorunds or history’s, can stand together and defeat this tax once and for all.

    Don’t Pay Twice!!!

  • Avalon Sunset

    Was it not our wonderful assembly in its former incarnation that introduced water taxes in the first place? Why are all the parties shouting about it now.

  • Doreen

    Avalon Sunset,

    It was indeed and likewise the Durkan tax. The hypocrisy is mind boggling.

  • David

    I suppose if we stick our fingers in our ears, close our eyes and sing “Imagine” maybe all our problems will disappear…

    On the other hand maybe they won’t, in which case we will have to end up paying for our water.

  • nmc

    What pisses me off most is that now rates isn’t paying for water, some of us are getting next to nothing for our money. I live at the top of the Glen Rd., the place is a mess. There’s rubbish and broken bottles everywhere. At this point We have three bins, normal rubbish gets removed once a week, so that’s half normal service there. Then the other two bins, (recyclable rubbish, and compost), should actually be making the council money. It’s enraging to have to pay extra money in return for living in a tip, where services received from the council amount to nothing.

  • Crataegus

    nmc

    You should try commercial rates if you think you are hard done by. You don’t even get your rubbish collected and cant use the council recycling facilities and generally they make household rates look like peanuts.

  • gram

    nmc: What pisses me off most is that now rates isn’t paying for water, some of us are getting next to nothing for our money. << Very true. Does anyone have a list of services that are supposed to be provided out of the rates so I can check what I'm supposed to be getting? In Castlereagh for example, the population is increasing every year(additional revenue), rates are increasing by 20% but the quality of services I receive is unchanged and possibly going down. In addition we are no longer paying for water and the councils are merging. Where is all the extra revenue going?

  • Red Mist

    David,

    We are already paying for our water…if your eyes were open and your fingers were out of your ears a little more often then maybe you would have heard or seen that by now.

    This isn’t a tax on water its a double tax.

  • Red Mist

    nmc and gram,

    Unfortunately the situation is worse. A portion of the rates is still going to pay for water. This extra charge, the double tax, is improving the infrastructure to pave the way for privatisation which is the governments ultimate aim.

    Already the ‘Water Service’ is a semi-privatised body with the powers to borrow money from private sources, etc.

    Our rates will continue to rise, as will our water bills, and ultimately our water will be owned by foreign mulitnational companies with little or no accountability.

    The future looks bright eh? Privatised water, hospital services, electricity, etc. We can without a doubt defeat this double tax and the plans for privatisation.

    All we have to do is refuse to pay.

  • Truth and Justice

    Yes it was the previous Assembly that broke the link between the Water and our Regional Rates the Ulster Uniononist Party with the SDLP and Sinn Fein all agreed to it only the DUP were opposed to the idea!

  • Avalon Sunset/Doreen,

    Given what you both say is quite correct, and evidence of what an Assembly of fools was capable of last time round, who needs them to get back in power so they can do MORE damage?

  • prolefodder

    Comrades! May I respectfully ask that we call the tax by its proper name ‘The Durken tax’ since it was Mark ‘border poll’ Durken whose incompetence in the face of the Gordon Brown squad dispatched to the province to sell/promote the Reinvest and Reform Initiative which led to the tap tax. Thanks Mark!

  • mchinadog

    For the benefit of the electors who are saying they want the water rates scraped then don’t vote for the three parties who agreed to introducing them and which led to the NIO Ministers going ahead with the agreement that was set up by the the SDLP, UUP and SINN FEIN/IRA infamously know as the DURKAN TAX as he was the Minister of Finance at the time. It is interesting that all those parties are now opposing the every thing they would have set up themselves had the Assembly not crumbled for the third time. I call that hypocrisy.

  • I wonder…

    The cost of the water and sewerage service provider each year is a very large proportion of the regional rate element.

    Therefore, if the other services like roads and education were to try and manage on what was left over there would be disastrous consequences for the prad system and schools. The regional rate is a contribution towards all local services but does not constitute a double charge for water and sewerage. It is simplistic and misundertands local finances and taxation to say “we are paying twice.” But it is a good slogan. 🙂

    The water bill monies will go only to water and sewerage services, not into the overall NI budget.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Given what you both say is quite correct, and evidence of what an Assembly of fools was capable of last time round, who needs them to get back in power so they can do MORE damage?

    David, some of us believe in a democracy where we get to elect the people who run the place. The present situation is not a democracy. We don’t get to elect the people who make a mess out of things. Even if your good self were somehow elected, you’d still have more right to the job than some eejit who visits twice a year from Kent and delegates everything else to faceless civil servants.

    On the subject of the post, this is not a news item but a party political soundbite. It has been known for a long time that the assembly could vote to scrap water charges. See the FAQs here, which explain :

    A Northern Ireland Executive could decide to reverse the policy on water charges. But if it did it would have to decide how to sustain current levels of investment without cutting back on other public services such as health or education.

    As Pete has already written above. But there is a sting in the tail which everyone including Pete and the Belly Telly has missed out. The water reform site goes on to say :


    This would be made extremely difficult by the loss of the Treasury concession on Water Service capital costs which is dependent on self-financing status being obtained. This concession is worth tens of millions of pounds over the next 20 years.

    Basically, not only will the money have to be found to fund the water charges, but the government will make further cuts in our subvention to the tune of “several hundred million over 20 years”.

    However, what any cynical person could easily predict is that over the next few days, at least one of the parties will go public and say that if they get into power and start the assembly, they will bring forward a bill to remove the water rates, and they will of course neglect to inform us about the small detail raised above. Fiscal responsibility has never been their big thing.

  • Ca Va

    Just today got Information Booklet for Pros /Cons of having a Meter installed,there is a list of things Showers /Baths /Toilet Flushing/Baths/ Washing Machines/Dishwashers all giving amounts of water needed. Then you have to work out how many times you will bathe /flush toilet/use hosepipe each week ,then multiply this by number in household and divide by 1000 to get cubic metres used per week then multiply by 52 to get a year,s usage ,not forgetting to substract weeks you will be on holiday!! This is being sent out to Pensioners! This is crazy

  • Red Mist

    Rates are a means of collecting taxation in order to fund our local services.

    Water services are incorporated in our rates thus we already pay for water services.

    Some may try and blur the issue by making abstract and obscure references to percentages, etc, without may I add contributing any support facts of evidence.

    People are going to be charged twice for water services. Once under rates and once through direct water tax.

    I wonder…i wonder if you could explain the logic behind this. Could it be that the government is attempting to generate a ‘revenue stream’ to ‘upgrade’ services and infrastructure so that they can be privatised.

    That is the agenda. The water service is to be privatised and we are being asked to pay again to fund it.

    It is simplistic to suggest that local people cannot see the way that their finances are being re-directed to fund the investment adventures or foreign mulitnationals. It doesn’t take good slogans to defeat the double water tax, it only takes good sense.

    Dont Pay Twice!

  • Doreen

    David Vance,

    No we most certainly do not need another Assembly of fools, and with some exceptions that is what most of them were (plus what amounted to another layer of bureauracy that will become increasingly irelevant with yet another reform of local government costing us even more money). No surprise, however. The lack of job security is not likely to inspire the most intelligent or business oriented.

    And the next lot are not likely to feel more secure in their jobs than the last lot did.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Red Mist:

    Dont Pay Twice!

    You’re not paying twice. The government is sick of subsidizing us £3bn a year and getting sod all out of it, and now expects us to pay our way. The first step is getting us to pay our way for the significant upgrades required to the water and sewerage system.

  • BeardyBoy

    And why Comrade do we need to upgrade our sewerage and water systems, the answer is for the last 30 years or so the government let them run down and they pocketed EU cash which was meant to be spent here in addition to theirs.

    They stole our money.

    Why should we have to pay for their theft – they should first pay to get the infrastructure up to the standard it would have been in had they been diligent during their years in power.

    However we are probably stuffed , remember this?
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/839994.stm

    The condition on this was that this was a full and final settlement. Trimble and Mallon agreed – it made them look good.

  • Comrade Stalin

    And why Comrade do we need to upgrade our sewerage and water systems, the answer is for the last 30 years or so the government let them run down and they pocketed EU cash which was meant to be spent here in addition to theirs.

    I take a different point of view – we, the electorate, elected stupid politicians who allowed the place to fall to bits and did nothing about it. We’ve got to stop blaming others for the stupid things that we did ourselves.

    They stole our money.

    The Brits have been subsidizing us for decades. What money did they steal ? If there’s any reasonable accusation to be made from that line of thought, it’s that they didn’t give us enough.

  • I Wonder

    “Could it be that the government is attempting to generate a ‘revenue stream’ to ‘upgrade’ services and infrastructure so that they can be privatised.

    Yeah. Of course thats an option. No government can bind a future government. And if the Conservatives ever get back in, they can move to privatise if there isn’t an Assembly or press the Assembly to privatise.

    Similarly no government can tie the hands of a future government to commit forever to something like the affordability tariff. But it would be prudent to maintain the tariff into the future, especially if youre a locally elected politician.

    Answer to all our issues on this?: get an Assembly in place and castigate/praise them for their decisions on the future of water services.

  • I Wonder

    Doreen, I think you’ll find that the “Assembly of Fools” is so dubbed by Mr Vance because the electorate did not see fit to support his candidature in 1998. 🙂

  • gram

    Comrade Stalin: >>The Brits have been subsidizing us for decades. What money did they steal ? If there’s any reasonable accusation to be made from that line of thought, it’s that they didn’t give us enough.< < This tired half truth regularly comes up. The brits are not subsidizing us any more than what occurs in other regions of the UK and in other european countries. Yes it costs more to provide goods and services to less populated regions. Thats due to geography nothing else. We pay exactly the same tax here as elsewhere in the UK thus we should demand the same level of services. >>I take a different point of view – we, the electorate, elected stupid politicians who allowed the place to fall to bits and did nothing about it. We’ve got to stop blaming others for the stupid things that we did ourselves.<< I hardly think the place fell to bits during the 18months the assembly was last up and running. The ball lies firmly at the door of the british government. They ran the place and should pay for their mistakes.

  • George

    BeardyBoy,

    “they pocketed EU cash which was meant to be spent here in addition to theirs.”

    I don’t think so. Have you any evidence of this?

    I fear that it was more a case of total incompetence that led to a situation where Northern Ireland missed out on EU Cohesion funds altogether.

    The money was there for sewage treatment plants. The Republic spent billions but also got hundreds of millions from Europe to upgrade.

    Northern Ireland instead continues to pump raw sewage into the sea.

    I have asked this before. How much in EU Cohesion funds did NI get?

    If it missed out who is to blame?