Is Conor preparing to swallow a bitter (water) pill?

One sharp eyed reader noticed that the massive poster protesting against any future imposition of water rates, which had been fixed on the side of Sinn Fein’s North Belfast Constituency Office on the Antrim Road has been taken down. He reports, “It was there on my way to church on Sunday morning, but when I came past this morning it has disappeared. It must have gone in the last few days.” Hmmm…. could there be a connection between the disappearance of that poster and the arrival of a review document on Conor Murphy’s desk. We can only wait and see, but whilst the minister was clear that the privatisation allegedly planned by the previous NIO ministers would not go ahead, nothing has been said about water charges:

Mr Murphy and his executive colleagues will be faced with a tough decision on whether they should continue to defer the charges or introduce them despite originally opposing them during the Assembly Election.

Another reader asks: If there is a Westminster election, will Minister Murphy’s department be expected to go into Purdah: thereby burying any difficult news until after the campaign is over?

That’s of course, if there is to be an election, or indeed, whether Mr Murphy is to be the candidate.

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  • slug

    Isn’t privatisation of water and ploughing the proceeds into investment in transport infrastructure quite a good idea?

  • Mick Fealty

    It might be. But poiint me in the direction of nny local politician prepared to risk saying it.

    That said, my water companies (we have two: one for delivery of fresh water and the other for waste) is private, and we have pretty major problems with the quality of the service we’ve received, but during emergencies, and in dealing with the aftermath.

    Selling off to private companies which then have no market incentive to provide a decent service is not good public value. It’s an open invitation for asset stripping for one thing – one of the companies I’m thinking of once passed through the hands of Enron – nuff said!

  • Grouch

    Privatisation of the water is not just about the water and the service, but it must be about the huge assets Water Service has right across Northern Ireland. What will happen to them. Perhaps the land can be sold off separately to raise revenue to improve and pay for the service.

    As for Purdah, I am not sure if a Westminster has any affect on an MLA who is also an MP. Surely they must fufill their elected role as an MLA.

    Does this also mean that those MPs who have their assembly salary reduced because they are earning income from Westminster get a rise during Purdah? (as they don’t get paid during the election period). Perhaps someone can enlighten us.

  • Mick Fealty

    Grouch,

    “Perhaps the land can be sold off separately to raise revenue to improve and pay for the service.”

    Or to continue subsidising the non payment of a separate water rate?

  • Grouch

    Mick Fealty,

    “Or to continue subsidising the non payment of a separate water rate?”

    If you think so.

    I have tried asking for details of how much land the Water Service actually has, and where it is all located. Maybe I should send the request to my local MLA or MP and let them ask the question, unless anyone already has the data?

  • slug

    Mick

    Well isn’t everyone saying that NI is too dependent on public sector employment relative to GB?

    If people really believe this, then privatising Translink and privatising NI Water would make a substantial reduction in public sector–as you say these things have been privatised in England–and provide a financial sum that could be invested in infrastructure or used to reduce rates for business.

    Or, are people not really serious when they say they believe in reducing the state’s role in the NI economy?

  • overhere

    I believe you guys are going to have to bite the bullet and start paying for water.
    The company that supplies me here in London are continually being slapped down for bad service but we do not have a choice as to what water service to use.

    The only deterent is the ombardsman (who I believe is a waste of time in our instance and being too lienient) so if you are going to start paying for water make da%m sure that there is water tight (no pun 😉 legistation on what penalties the company pays for bad service.

  • willowfield

    I don’t see how the Executive can avoid imposing water rates (note that, as planned, they are rates, not charges). It doesn’t seem credible that NI would use Exchequer funding to subsidise water whereas everywhere else in the UK pays full cost charges. I am sure there are plenty of other pressing demands on the block vote than subsidising water.

    The anti-water-charging campaign was entirely opportunistic and unrealistic.

  • I Wonder

    The land question has already been asked and answered. NIW owns very little disposable land and it wouldn’t meet a fraction of the running costs for a year. So how do you run the service for the other eight months..? 🙂

  • barnshee

    Wondeful— lets see how the economic illiterates wriggle out of this one. With poor old Cat shafted by the classroom assistants and no british minister to take the blame. Hubris -Don`t you just love it

  • I Wonder

    “It doesn’t seem credible that NI would use Exchequer funding to subsidise water whereas everywhere else in the UK pays full cost charges.”

    Precisely, grasping this is to come face to face with reality politics.

  • Could North Belfast Sinn Féin do something with that wall to cover up the ugl-y concrete coloured paint as well? It looks hideous. And draws attention to what was there until a few days ago.

  • Lamplight

    This comment is to suggest that this website up its game, pronto!

  • runciter

    “It doesn’t seem credible that NI would use Exchequer funding to subsidise water whereas everywhere else in the UK pays full cost charges.”

    Water has to be paid for either way. Just because others are foolish enough to sell control of key infrastructure to foreign investors, doesn’t mean we must suit follow suit.

    “lets see how the economic illiterates wriggle out of this one”

    Seems to me the real “economic illiterates” are the ones fooled by the hand-waving and gobbledygook of our business-worshipping media.

  • willowfield

    Runciter

    Water has to be paid for either way. Just because others are foolish enough to sell control of key infrastructure to foreign investors, doesn’t mean we must suit follow suit.

    You’re conflating two issues: water rates/charges and privatisation. I don’t advocate the latter: I merely point out that it’s not credible to seek to avoid the former.

  • runciter

    You’re conflating two issues: water rates/charges and privatisation.

    Both issues were being discussed on this thread.

    In any case, let me clarify my points.

    1. On water charges – Water has to be paid for either way – Subsidising the provision of clean water (an essential public resource) is a sensible use of public funds.

    2. On privatisation – giving control of water to foreign investors is a bad idea

  • Reader

    runciter: Subsidising the provision of clean water (an essential public resource) is a sensible use of public funds.
    There’s no such thing as ‘public funds’ – you actually mean ‘taxes’. If you think Northern Ireland water should be subsidised by the UK taxpayer (e.g. – me, and maybe you), then shouldn’t the rest of the UK be subsidised too? That’s a tax increase…

  • runciter

    …shouldn’t the rest of the UK be subsidised too?

    What they spend their money on is up to them.

  • Reader

    runciter: What they spend their money on is up to them.
    A tax rise is a tax rise. 20% to 20.1%, or whatever. Are you happy to pay the extra income tax that is implied by your attachment to taxpayers money?
    Or were you suggesting that NI water would be paid for by NI taxes, rates, or whatever? But that *is* the plan! Water charges based on rateable value.