“The Executive appears to be paralysed on this issue.”

The Chairman of the Northern Ireland Assembly Regional Development Committee, the UUP’s Fred Cobain, had previously criticised the relevant NI Minister, Sinn Féin’s Conor Murphy, after his unilateral declaration of intent to defer new water charges for a further three years. That was in April. In the Belfast Telegraph today Fred Cobain describes the issue as “a ticking time-bomb” that the dysfunctional NI Executive has, to date, failed to address. And the cost of a further deferral? Up to £2billion.

The £2bn total comprises the total cost of running the service and essential investment, as well as the addition of the VAT and annual capital costs. A private paper seen by this newspaper argued: “The Department is not in a position to engage with HMRC until the Executive has decided its long-term approach. The additional VAT costs could be up to £60m in 2009-2010 if the existing agreement no longer remains in place.”

“Up to £130m would be involved if HMRC sought to recover VAT payments for 2007-2008 and 2008-2009.” Ministerial guidance papers, released for consultation, said: “The costs of deferral for a three-year period, excluding risks, are of the order of £1bn. “That is, the total projected cost for water and sewerage services/investment over the 2010-13 period is of the order of £1.6bn (excluding risks)”.

And also from the Belfast Telegraph report

Fred Cobain, who heads the scrutiny committee overseeing the department which would implement the charges, said: “It is not good enough just to make a decision to defer and leave the worrying about the implications until later.”

But the UUP MLA said: “At this point in time I don’t think they have a clue what they are doing. But they just cannot close their eyes and hope this will go away.”

The Department for Regional Development Committee, on which all parties apart from Alliance are represented, has been taking evidence from Northern Ireland Water, the billing firm Crystal Alliance and others in recent months but members are angry that key questions remain unanswered.

“There is at the most between eight and 10 weeks for this decision to be taken, at least if Crystal Alliance is to have the time it says it needs to prepare bills to go out,” Mr Cobain said. The North Belfast MLA, who opposes water charges, said: “The Executive appears to be paralysed on this issue.

“The Regional Development Minister (Conor Murphy of Sinn Fein) announced he was bringing forward proposals for another three-year deferral in April for the Executive, but so far it appears this has not even been discussed.

“The fact is they have had two-and-a-half years to think about this. The original plan was to introduce the charges on a one-third, two thirds and then full charge basis. But now we just don’t know where we are.”

“I am very concerned at the potential impact of this on pensioners in particular, and families already in poverty.

“A responsible government has to plan properly for the future. They should not just be making announcements and planning policy on the hoof. If they are going ahead with a further three-year delay to the introduction of water charges we are entitled to know where the money to pay for that will come from.”

, , , ,

  • eranu

    2 billion is a lot of money. i wonder should there be a way for the assembly to vote to force a minister to take a decision on something that the assembly feels needs actioned right away? maybe if the assembly votes an issue to be a ‘do or die’ , then the minister must make a decision within a certain time period or quit. that might get the ball rolling.

  • New Blue

    Nice idea eranu

    If it were implemented we would probably only have 4 ministers in office by Christmas 🙂

  • Dave

    What they are not telling people is that the EU’s Water Framework Directive imposes pricing policies on water supply which all Member States must implement by 2010, so folks in NI don’t have any democratic choice about paying water changes – the decision was made for them by their masters in the EU.

    Complying with these stringent EU regulations has already added an estimated £110+ billion onto the cost of water supply in the UK, and 95% of all water bodies in England and Wales still fail the standard set out in the EU’s Directive. Indeed, wait until they tell the NI farmers what it means for them – and then the fun will really begin. In East Anglia, for example, more half the farmland will have to be converted from productive arable crops to growing grass by 2015 in order to keep the nitrate content in the local water supply within the EU’s Directive limits and thereby avoid whopping great fines from the European Court.

  • fin

    “in order to keep the nitrate content in the local water supply within the EU’s Directive limits”

    pesky EU insisting on safe drinking water. Look on the brightside my water is supplied by a Aussie Bank, who charge to take away ‘run-off water’ from my property while imposing a water ban, and who are well on their way to convincing the government to add £50 to our bills to cover costs of renewing the infrastructure

  • eranu

    possibly new blue! but the relevant party would have to nominate a replacement to take over as minister immediately. or perhaps the post would go to another party, although that might be a bit unfair. there would always be someone as minister and the pressure would really be on for the parties to put ‘can do’ people into the minister positions to start with. it would be a sort of no confidence vote in the government, but it would be for particular ministers as there isnt a single party government. possibly a voting candidate for the first weighted majority vote rather than a sectarian vote.
    if the OFDFM is also deadlocked on getting things done, then both of them can be subject to a ‘do or die’ vote also. that would really shake them up and perhaps they wouldn’t seek to control everything if it meant taking responsibility and being in the firing line.
    i dont think there are even any other ideas for getting rid of bad ministers let alone any mechanisms. i hereby name this idea the ‘Shit or get off the pot directive’ 🙂
    oh well, just an idea…..

    if daves info is correct we would need someone to get things moving long before Christmas! 2 billion is alot of money to waste by pushing away something hard in the hope that someone else in the future will do it. its not like its a trifling unimportant thing that can be left dangling in the wind for years and years without any sort of decision or action taken, like education!!

    key word – progress LOL!!

  • Comrade Stalin

    Eranu,

    The only way you can get any substantive motion through the assembly is for the DUP and SF to be on board. Otherwise it falls.

  • Comrade Stalin

    New Blue, I haven’t seen you around since the election. Didn’t we have a couple of bets on the go?

  • New Blue

    Eranu

    sign up to http://www.igov.me create the policy, have it submitted to OFMDFM and see how they respond to it!

    It’s about time people started making noises about what they want instead of what they don’t want, water charges is one issue that don’t matter if your orange or green! (apologies for the Michael Jackson paraphraising – it just fits so well).

  • New Blue

    Comrade

    So glad you brought it up – would you like me to give you a link to pay your £100 to the Simon Community, or you can make a phone donation.

    Your erstwhile colleague Mr. Morse has also agreed to pay this very good cause.

    Maybe I get to pay you some back if we don’t get the seats at Westminster!

  • Dave

    “pesky EU insisting on safe drinking water.” – fin

    Pesky idiot insisting on squandering £110 + billion of UK taxpayers money without bothering to ascertain that the water was already safe to drink but will now be, as a result of EU regulations, considerably more expensive to drink. That’s the only difference.

    See Article 9 of Directive 2000/60/EC for the requirement that users must pay water charges.

    http://ec.europa.eu/environment/water/water-framework/index_en.html

    http://www.defra.gov.uk/ENVIRONMENT/water/wfd/

  • fin

    Pesky idiot insisting on squandering £110 + billion of UK taxpayers money ……

    Dave several years ago that wasn’t even 2 years dividends -just from my water coumpany- shipped back to Germany by the German utility company who owned it then

    The biggest crime was the privatisation of, and selling to foreign companies of these essential services, was it the EU who said I’m better served by having my water supplied by an aussie bank?

  • Dave

    Fin, who do you think ordered privatisation of the water service? That would be the same people who oversaw the Railtrack fiasco and the ongoing fiasco of Post Office privatisation, i.e. the EU. The UK government is simply complying with European Commission Directives. In the case of the Post Office, it is EU regulations that plunged that service from a profit-making one into a loss making one and it is EU regulations which compel the postal service to be opened up to competition from other companies in the EU. It is, of course, the UK people who suffer because of the government from the EU that they cannot hold them accountable for. If you don’t believe that the EU is behind those actions, I’ll happily post the links.

    In case you’re not bothered with the plethora of links above, here is a direct link to the Water Framework Directive’s implementation timetable:

    “2010: ensure proper water pricing policies are in place (article 9)”

    http://www.defra.gov.uk/ENVIRONMENT/water/wfd/pdf/wfdtimetable.pdf

  • Comrade Stalin

    New Blue,

    My recollection is that the bet was that you’d get over 18% of the vote. You didn’t.

  • New Blue

    Comerade

    Sorry to see your memory fading so quickly. The agreement was 17%, which we did make, I will hunt down the post.

    You agreed to the same terms as Mr. Morse, who has accepted that we did indeed reach the 17% (and not the less than 12% that some predicted) and has agreed to pay up.

    Back soon with the link.

    NB

  • Comrade Stalin

    Dave,

    You’re getting worse by the day. What does the EU have to do with Railtrack, and why did Ireland (subject to the same EU regulations) not indulge in a similar privatization fiasco ? Where are Ireland’s plans for water charges and privatization of An Post ?

  • George

    Comrade,
    Where are Ireland’s plans for water charges and privatization of An Post ?

    Ireland got itself a derogation from this Directive for domestic users. Bomb defused.

  • New Blue

    Is anyone any good with the search function on Slugger? I have put in a few searches (New Blue 17% Comerade Stalin) and it gives me the header page but I cannot get into the comments sections to prove to Comerade that he does indeed owe a local homeless charity £100.

    Any help appreciated, apologies for going off topic.

  • George

    New Blue,
    here you go. Let you, Sammy and Comrade sort that one out…

    http://sluggerotoole.com/index.php/weblog/comments/cameron-rules-out-unionist-pacts/P125/

  • New Blue

    Red faced New Blue

    Sammy and Comrade, seems I owe your charities of choice a tenner each (I can’t believe I went for 18% and not 17%), let me know where the dosh is to go and I’ll make the donations…

    George, for £20 you couldn’t change the post could you? 😉

  • George

    New Blue,
    I feared you were going to lose that one when I saw no sign of your much-vaunted 17%.

    As for your tempting offer, supporting Alliance on this issue is a big enough leap for me, never mind going over to the dark side of the UUP 😉

  • Comrade Stalin

    The Simon Community is good enough for me. Don’t worry about proving it or anything, I’ll take your word for it 🙂

    George,

    Ireland got itself a derogation from this Directive for domestic users. Bomb defused.

    Even so, that kind of screws up Dave’s argument that the sovereign governments have no power. Clearly there is room for give and take. And so far in the water charges debate, I don’t believe anyone (including the British government) has pointed out that charges are required by EU directives. Indeed Peter Hain used the threat of charges, and the assembly’s power to stop them, as an enticement to complete the powersharing deal.

    The other points about An Post and Railtrack go unaddressed. The EU regulations require separation of the infrastructure and rail service divisions to permit open access. All of the other European countries implemented this, including Ireland, without any of the “Railtrack fiasco”.

    Surely if Europe is so bad it shouldn’t be necessary to make up lies about it ? And if people are openly telling lies how can anything else they say be taken at face value ?

    BTW George, what’s your take on the second referendum ?

  • New Blue

    George

    It’s nowhere near so dark any more 🙂

    Comrade

    I am abseiling down the front of the Europa in September for Simon Community, I will place your kind donation on my sponsor sheet.

    If you fancy abseiling for Simon as well, I will sponsor you too.

    How strange – key code = pressure!

  • Dave

    Right, I guessing anybody who clicked on the links enjoyed this line from the European Commission’s Water Framework Directive: “Water is not a commercial product like any other but, rather, a heritage which must be protected, defended and treated as such.”

    It’s the first line, and it makes a point of stating that the EU’s intent is exactly the opposite of what the EU’s intent actually is so as not to alarm the horses (customary practice with the EU). The Directive goes on to make water into a “commercial product like any other” by demanding that providers of water charge for it “like any other” product. Prior to EU law making water into a commercial product, it was regarded as something that people should have access to by right rather than by wealth. Most governments would supply it under a general tax rather than a specific water charge.

    So, the European Commission has now established the principle in EU law that water is a commodity that must be bought and sold, and preferably bought and sold by private companies. It does this by fraudulently passing this ideological shift as a defence of the status quo.

    Instead of using harsh language like “water charges” it uses soft language like “economic instruments” and innocuous language like the “principle of recovery of the costs of water services.” So, water charges are now elevated to the status of a principle, no less.

    So, who must pay these “economic instruments” by the implementation date of 2010? Here is some text from the Water Framework Directive:

    “The use of economic instruments by Member States may be appropriate as part of a programme of measures. The principle of recovery of the costs of water services, including environmental and resource costs associated with damage or negative impact on the aquatic environment should be taken into account in accordance with, in particular, the polluter-pays principle.”

    What the hell is the polluter-pays principle? I’m glad you asked: that means anyone who uses water. Now the EU is using an ecotax to disguise its imposition of commercial charges for water on Member States. Anyone who now uses water is deemed guilty of polluting the environment and must pay for the cost of repairing the damage he or she has inflicted on it. This makes everyone who uses water liable to pay for it.

    Of course, the EU being more slippery than eels, don’t specifically mention “domestic water charges” but that is the clear obligation under this EU law. In its customary step-by-step manner, it will allow Member States to recover 100% of the costs of water (that its regulations have created) from users/polluters in the non-domestic sector before the cost is extended to ALL users/polluters as required under EU law.

    Naturally, this political expediency forces the non-domestic sector to pay all water charges for the domestic sector, so that can only be temporary as the commercial sector will protest about carrying the share of the burden that should be carried by all users/polluters under the Directive.

    So, water charges must happen by 2010 for non-domestic users/polluters and before 2015 for domestic users/polluters.

    Don’t like it? Don’t blame Mr Murphy or Mr Blair. Some of it makes sense in countries that have poor water quality and little rainfall, but the EU’s one-size-fits-all dementia means that all countries must have the same regime. Blame the EU-zealots who see “Europe’s water infrastructure” as a means of promoting their integrationist agenda.

    “Even so, that kind of screws up Dave’s argument that the sovereign governments have no power.” – Comrade Stalin

    Who made this argument? Do you understand the difference between some and none, stupid?

    Comrade, while I appreciate that EU-zealots are scared of facts, here are a few for you:

    In regard to Railtrack, Article 1 of the EU’s Directive 91/440/EEC issued in 1991 mandated that Member States “facilitate the adoption of the Community railways to the needs of the Single Market… by separating the management of railway operation and infrastructure from the provision of railway transport services, separation of accounts being compulsory and organizational or institutional separation being optional.” That is why the great British train system was decapitated: EU law mandated it in order to further an integrationist agenda. As I said, the “UK government is simply complying with European Commission Directives.”

    In regard to the Post Office, EU’s DIRECTIVE 97/67/EC (1997) requires that another great British system be decapitated in order to promote “the single market for postal services.” In other words, to further an integrationist agenda. Here again the “UK government is simply complying with European Commission Directives.”

  • Dave

    Err.. Blair = Brown.

  • Dave

    “And so far in the water charges debate, I don’t believe anyone (including the British government) has pointed out that charges are required by EU directives. Indeed Peter Hain used the threat of charges, and the assembly’s power to stop them, as an enticement to complete the powersharing deal.” – Comrade Stalin

    So, if the British government have a policy of keeping you in the dark and feeding you bullshit, perhaps you should have troubled your petite backside to read the EU’s Directive imposing water charges for yourself, or maybe, check out the Irish government’s Department of the Environment to see if they were any more forthcoming?

    “Government policy requires local authorities to recover the cost of providing water services from the users of these services, with the exception of households using the services for domestic purposes. This is in accordance with the polluter pays principle and the requirements of Article 9 of the EU Water Framework Directive.”

    In other words, you are paying water charges because EU laws forces you to pay water charges and this has been transposed into national law.

    http://www.environ.ie/en/Environment/Water/WaterServices/WaterChargesMetering/

    Now, just as EU law imposed the disastrous separation of railway infrastructure from the provision of railway services that destroyed the once-great British rail network via EU Directive 91/440/EEC, this privatisation of national services under the guise of market liberalisation continues under the European Commission’s Services Directive (2006). In this, at least, the EU are just muppets of 1994 GATS agreement drawn up by WTO, which calls for a free market. Look to at article III-147 of the Lisbon Treaty which gives the Commission the power to force privatisation in any area it sees fit to “establish measures to achieve the liberalisation of a specific service”. Article III-148 binds Member States to “declare their readiness to undertake the liberalisation of services beyond the extent required” by Article III-147 and declares that this will be done by the EU puppetmaster pulling strings behind the scenes and without the knowledge of the national electorate: “To this end, the Commission shall make recommendations to the member states concerned”.

    It amazes me that a self-confessed socialist – who is presumably opposed to privatisation – could be such a jolly chearleader for an entity like the EU that promotes privatisation because it sees it as a means of securing a level of interconnectivity that it hopes will undermine any democratic poll on withdrawal from the EU by a Member State due to that interconnectivity and the task of undoing 107,000 pieces of EU regulations and replacing them with sovereign laws suited to a non-member, free and sovereign state.

  • Dave

    Last word on this: even the Irish government’s statement quoted above is a lie. As I explained to you in the post before:

    “Of course, the EU being more slippery than eels, don’t specifically mention “domestic water charges” but that is the clear obligation under this EU law. In its customary step-by-step manner, it will allow Member States to recover 100% of the costs of water (that its regulations have created) from users/polluters in the non-domestic sector before the cost is extended to ALL users/polluters as required under EU law.

    Naturally, this political expediency forces the non-domestic sector to pay all water charges for the domestic sector, so that can only be temporary as the commercial sector will protest about carrying the share of the burden that should be carried by all users/polluters under the Directive.

    So, water charges must happen by 2010 for non-domestic users/polluters and before 2015 for domestic users/polluters.”

    Go read the EU’s Water Framework Directive. It makes it clear that ALL users of water are covered by the polluter-pays principle since all are users/polluters under the supplied meaning.

  • Jo

    How many times does Fred mention “they”?

    “THEY should not just be making announcements and planning policy on the hoof. If THEY are going ahead with a further three-year delay to the introduction of water charges we are entitled”

    “At this point in time I don’t think THEY have a clue what they are doing. But THEY just cannot close their eyes…”

    He – and the others we elected – ARE NOW the government. Surely it should be “WE”?

    I think Fred thinks he’s still in the Direct Rule era… 🙂

  • George

    Comrade,
    of course sovereign governments have power but Lisbon reduces that power. I have serious concerns about the activist nature of the ECJ, about the integrationist of certain countries in the EU and the ever-growing democratic deficit.

    There is a blatant lack of honesty in the whole European project at the present time and I’m am acutely wary of it.

    I have no issue with people advocating a federalist agenda, what I do have an issue with is this agenda is now being achieved by stealth after the failure of the EU Constitution to gain popular traction.

    As far as I’m concerned, until the necessary degree of honesty presents itself there is no need to give further competencies to the EU, we have enough to be getting on with.

    Also, just because I believe that the EU has enough power as it is, does not mean I see it as bad.

    But enough is enough. I was a default yes voter on all European referenda until Lisbon when for the first time I started out from a no position.

    Nothing has happened since then to move me out of the No camp. Indeed, the attitudes of Europe’s elites and our own parliamentarians since then has hardened my stance that the EU as an institution has enough power as it is.

    “Vote Yes because we have no option” was the mantra last time around. That is hardly a choice.

    The reality is vote Yes or we are stuck with Nice but federalists don’t like this option as they seem to need ever-closer integration.

    A year later, the way this second referendum is being forced through leaves a sickly taste in the mouth and I think will have unforeseen consequences on the Irish body politic for years to come.

    I’ll leave the Railtrack discussion to you and Dave as I’m not bothered reading up on Directives. But I’m familiar enough with Competition law to know that the EU loves breaking up State monopolies.

    That’s why we have a situation of the ESB needing to compete when it isn’t certain if Ireland is a big enough market to warrant having more than one electricity supplier.

  • New Blue

    Jo

    The truth is that it is still ‘they’ – if DUP and Sinn Fein don’t say yes then nothing can happen.

    Another example of this is Michael McGimpsey’s issue with Swine Flu – we need £50 million to prepare for the potential epidemic in Northern Ireland in winter. We need to do the work now to ensure we are ready.

    THEY are saying nothing can be done until September – the assembly is crap and it’s crap because they cannot make decisions on anything outside of ‘ussuns’ and ‘themmuns’.

  • Jo

    To be fair, though, NO political party wants to be the one which says to people here that they will have to start paying directly for their water and sewerage services. It is an unpalatable reality.

    BUT the fact is that investment is now needed as the Victorian sewerage systems needed replacement – after all, 100 years plus of service wasn’t a bad inheritance for Belfast!

    On a related matter, I recently had sight of a friend’s council tax bill for their Midlands home. It itemised police and fire service charges – at £200 and £100 respectively. Whaat an eye-opener! Would it catch on here, does anyone think? 🙂

  • Dave

    “…would lead to a large number of his fellow citizens out of a job whilst Raytheon carried out their work elsewhere.”

    “I’ll leave the Railtrack discussion to you and Dave as I’m not bothered reading up on Directives. ” – George

    Neither is Comrade Stalin, which is why he made this priceless statement:

    “And so far in the water charges debate, I don’t believe anyone (including the British government) has pointed out that charges are required by EU

    directives. Indeed Peter Hain used the threat of charges, and the assembly’s power to stop them, as an enticement to complete the powersharing deal.” –

    Comrade Stalin

    That’s actually quite funny – and such a charming trust in the word of Peter Hain. If he had of bothered to read the European Commission’s Water Framework Directive before insisting that it did not impose water charges, he would have known that he was wrong than a turd in the water cooler.

    In regard to privatisation, it’s true that Maggie Thatcher supported the Single European Act on that basis, so the argument isn’t chicken and egg. As Lord Young put it, that act was the means to achieve “the Thatcherisation of Europe”. What she later discovered was that was that the single market was actually about promoting standardisation/harmonisation that masqueraded as liberalisation and a single market agenda. Now, all countries have a single market, and that is all that the EU is actually promoting – a single market for a single state (Europa). This isn’t about globalisation at all. In fact, the EU is intensively protectionist, being a customs union that excludes free external trade and only permits free trade within its internal borders (like every other state). It must be protectionist since that is a key part of its Treaty of Rome agenda of becoming a state – if non-member states could trade freely with member states, then there would be no need to be a member state and no means by which the EU could force countries to surrender their national sovereignty to it under threat of exclusion from the internal market.

  • Dave

    Whoops! Ignore this misplaced sentence from another thread: “…would lead to a large number of his fellow citizens out of a job whilst Raytheon carried out their work elsewhere.”

  • Jo

    “Indeed Peter Hain used the threat of charges, and the assembly’s power to stop them, as an enticement to complete the powersharing deal”

    Indeed he did.

    BUT the Treasury have bound the NI Executive into accepting that if direct charging is not introduced, then the funding for water/sewerage will have to be found from elsewhere in the subvention. Yeah, you can have the power, but only the power to redistribute, not to raise more.